FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas — The Small Home Repair Program in Grand Bahama started off much slower than anticipated, according to Deputy Director of Social Services and Urban Development, Senator Kirkland Russell, who said it forced the Ministry back to the drawing board, where, with the guidance of the Minister Obie Wilchcombe, they came up with a wonderful new aspect of the program, which was launched as a Pilot Program last week.
Senator Russell spoke at the first ever Office of the Prime Minister Press Briefing in Grand Bahama, at the Ministry for Grand Bahama on Thursday, May 18, 2023, where he updated the media about the Small Home Repair program and other matters pertaining to the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development.
He pointed out that the new idea devised once they had revised the program has helped to accelerate the Small Homes Repair Program, which had lagged behind schedule. Senator Russell said they started in West Grand Bahama to test the new version of the program and it worked much better than anticipated.
“We have already assessed more than 500 homes on the island of Grand Bahama,” and there are many more that need to be assessed,” he told members of the media. “The Prime Minister and his government is committed 100 percent to this program for the long term, so it will not cease.
“We are encouraging all residents who need assistance to continue to go into our offices to make an application to have their homes assessed and then we will be better able to advise you as to when your repairs could begin. The program now is in an aggressive state.”
So impressed with the results they have seen thus far with the new version of the program, Senator Russell said the intent by the government is to copy paste the program throughout the country, considering that there is a need for small homes repair throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Senator Russell pointed out that earlier this week home repair materials arrived in Moore’s Island and contractors and builders have already begun the work in repairing 12 homes on that island. He said a contract has also been signed to repair some 42 homes in Abaco.
“Right now, we are focusing on roof repairs,” he added. “The reason for that is we are trying to repair as many roofs as possible before the official start of the hurricane season. During our assessment we found that flood inundation was a major player as far as catastrophic effects from Hurricane Dorian had on homes in Grand Bahama and in Abaco. That meant people found they needed assistance not just with their roofs, but also inside their homes.
“My promise is this, that we will work diligently to have as many homes repaired before we get into the heart of the hurricane season.”
Turning his attention to future plans for the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development on the island of Grand Bahama, Senator Russell said one of the things the Ministry would focus on in the confines of the new budget is that of removing derelict vehicles and the clearing of abandoned buildings throughout the communities of Grand Bahama.
He acknowledged that the Beautiful Grand Bahama Project has been doing a fantastic job with beautifying the communities and streets of Grand Bahama, so the Ministry of Urban Development would only seek to enhance the work already done through that program.
“Removing abandoned buildings is not just about creating better aesthetics, but we know that these structures, these buildings can be used as covert places for criminality and abandoned vehicles can attract rodents and create a negative impact on a community,” Senator Russel explained.
As the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development has expanded access to the service it provides to the public in Grand Bahama, Senator Russell noted that there were still some areas on the island that did not have such access. That dilemma, he added, has been rectified.
“I’m pleased to announce to the people in west and east Grand Bahama that the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development will be available in your area in very short order,” he said. “In West End, they will be opening a new Urban Center, which will not only include Urban Development, but Social Services, to ensure that persons in west Grand Bahama are able to access all of the services that are provided by both Urban Development and Social Services.
“One of the things that the Prime Minister was adamant about, as it relates to the people in East Grand Bahama, was that we take the direct services of the government in the High Rock area to provide all of the services of Urban Development and Social Services.
“So that means there will be no need for the persons from Sweeting’s Cay, McLean’s Town, Pelican Point, High Rock or Free Town to have to traverse miles and miles to come into the city of Freeport, just to access basic services as it relates to Urban Development and Social Services.
“In the city of Freeport, we have five centers that are active in Eight Mile Rock, Central and Lewis Yard, Pineridge, Marco City and on Queen’s Highway. In those centers, we conduct our regular programs and services for the people of Grand Bahama, which includes programs for senior citizens and the youths.”
Senator Russell noted that while the government has faithfully provided a lunch program for school kids, there has been no breakfast program in place for those kids. He noted that some of the Urban Centers, under instruction of the Minister, have begun to provide breakfast for the public-school kids who are on the lunch program.
“There are major needs that exist on the island of Grand Bahama and many people are hurting since Dorian and the Pandemic,” said Senator Russell. “Many people are in serious, serious need. Social Services continue their assessments daily and that means on a daily basis children are added to the lunch and breakfast program.”