Thursday, April 25, 2024

Housing the poor must be a priority


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For ye have the poor with you always . . . . – Mark 14:7

In today’s society where the emphasis seems so much to be on self, we so often misuse the above Bible extract to excuse our obvious lack of caring for our fellow man – after all, they say, the Bible makes it clear that we can never do enough to get rid of poverty.

If as a society we persist with this approach, we are certain to create some ill-effects that will come back to haunt us all in the not-too-distant future. We all ought to be concerned about the increasing frequency with which Barbadians, particularly the elderly and single mothers, have been popping into the public view complaining about their circumstances.

For many years now we have had a recurring problem with evictions that have left several Barbadian families on the streets, while in recent times an apparent spate of house fires has compounded the situation. On top of all that, we continue to “discover” poor people who are still struggling to find relief from Tropical Storm Tomas that passed since 2010. And the peculiarity of land slippage in the Scotland District does not make it any easier. When we add all the challenges brought on by the current economic recession, we have to worry about the dangerous cocktail we have been brewing.

What also ought to be clear to all is that while both political parties have placed much emphasis on the building of a middle class, it is clear that for some time now there has been a less than adequate approach to housing the poor. While we have built “apartments” like London Bourne Towers, high rises at Valerie and complexes such as Country Park Towers, they do not appear to fill the void for the poor like Ferniehurst, Deacons Farm, Haynesville and Bagatelle Gardens did decades ago.

While the current Government must be given credit for building hundreds of starter homes such as those at Lancaster in St James and Parish Land in St Philip, it would appear that these will serve a market made up mainly of young working people intent on cementing their feet within the middle class. They do not offer any hope to the genuinely poor.

Solving the housing problem of the poor therefore requires that our Government dusts off the files relating to subsidised housing. It also requires that the society shakes off its growing tendency toward selfishness and acknowledge that those who can afford must contribute to improving the quality of life of those who will never be able to do it on their own.

Our policymakers must show a higher degree of creativity in order to address this matter; if not, we are very likely to face a Barbados that looks considerably different in the future. We must all be careful that our callousness and failure to consider all segments of our community do not lead to new hovels of horror in the backyards of our million-dollar mansions.

That’s not the Barbados that leaders like Errol Barrow and Tom Adams worked so hard to fashion. The poor may indeed always be with us, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be treated with dignity.




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