‘A dream come true’
Former informal settlers of Lombard and Broad Streets rejoice as CEO of CH&PA, Lelon Saul, and a toddler, cut the ceremonial ribbon to commemorate the handing of over of the 20 housing units. Joining the celebrations were Minister within the Ministry of Housing, Annette Ferguson, and CEO of FFTP Guyana, Kent Vincent (Adrian Narine photo)
Former informal settlers of Lombard and Broad Streets rejoice as CEO of CH&PA, Lelon Saul, and a toddler, cut the ceremonial ribbon to commemorate the handing of over of the 20 housing units. Joining the celebrations were Minister within the Ministry of Housing, Annette Ferguson, and CEO of FFTP Guyana, Kent Vincent (Adrian Narine photo)

– Former Lombard and Broad Street squatters turn the keys to their new homes

By Navendra Seoraj
WITH tears of joy streaming down her face as she turned the key to her new house, Whitney John realised that the days of living in squalor on the corner of Broad and Lombard Streets are over.

John and her companion were among the twenty families who received their houses at Prospect, on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD), from the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) and Food for the Poor (FFTP) Guyana, after squatting at Broad and Lombard Streets for many years.

Minister within the Ministry Agriculture, Valerie Adams-Yearwood, delivers her remarks to the former Lombard Street squatters, who received their new houses at Prospect, on Tuesday (Adrian Narine photo)

The process of shifting the informal settlers to “formal housing” started three years ago, after a private individual, whose land they were squatting on, filed a court action and was granted the right to remove them from the property. Added to the legal action, a fire, in March 2019, had destroyed some of the shanties in the “squatting community,” leaving 35 persons homeless. Some $43M was allocated by the CHPA, in 2017, to have 72 houses erected for the squatters. “We had to find a solution for them, so in collaboration with our new partners (FFTP), we embarked on a project to transform the lives of the 20 families,” said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CH&PA, Lelon Saul, during his remarks at the simple handing over ceremony, on Tuesday.

In phase one of a two-phase project, CH&PA and FTTP constructed 20 houses at Prospect, said Saul, adding that the total cost was $36M. The cost was shared by both organisations, with CH&PA contributing $23.6M and FFTP pitching in $12.3M.
The units were all constructed by FFTP, said the CEO, noting that construction of the houses started in September, 2019.

“Within seven short months, we were able to deliver on this initiative, giving the squatters an opportunity to move from deplorable conditions,” said Saul.
The relocation, has given those families a chance to improve their livelihoods and create a better life for their children.

Minister within the Ministry of Housing, Annette Ferguson, CEO of the CH&PA, Lelon Saul, and CEO of FFP, Kent Vincent, assist a toddler in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to commission the new playground (Adrian Narine photo)

Children will not only be able to live in a formal community, but they will also be able to enjoy recreational activities at the new $8.5M recreational facility, which was also constructed in the area by the CH&PA. The facility will soon be outfitted with recreational amenities.

In talking about the significance of the community ground, Saul said: “it is all part of our effort to create sustainable, cohesive and empowered communities.”

He believes the commissioning of those houses was testimony to the authority’s ability to create such communities and tackle squatting.

“Although we have successfully shifted these families, the remaining Broad and Lombard Street informal settlers will be shifted in the second phase of the project which is slated for Cummings Lodge…we have solutions for everybody, there is no need for squatting,” said the CEO, noting that access to adequate housing is a human right that is recognised universally and this includes access to water, roads electricity and other amenities.
Minister within the Ministry of Communities, with responsibility for Housing, Annette Ferguson, said the authority’s effort is in keeping with President David Granger’s policy to abolish homelessness.

She said the transformation of the lives of the 20 families is line with President Granger’s “Four Rs” policy, which stands for reorientation, resources, regularisation and regionalisation.

“Government is one that cares for the wellbeing of the people…we did not neglect you…we stepped in at the appropriate time to render assistance…you did not just receive houses today, you hold titles to land…you are now a true land owner,” said the minister, adding that the families are now part of a “whole”.


Whitney John and her companion receives the key to their new house from CEO of FFTP Guyana, Kent Vincent (Adrian Narine photo)

“Promise delivered! I had visited the squatting community and saw people who were distraught, who had lost hope, who were crying for help, but they did not have the financial resources to do better for themselves.

“It needed a government with a heart, to bring their people out of that kind of despair…those people were entitled to a good life and this is taking them on the path to a good life,” said Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture, Valerie Adams-Yearwood, who had initially started the process, while she served in Ferguson’s capacity prior to April 2019.
Minister Adams-Yearwood had visited the site with Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, who was Minister of Social Protection at the time. After observing the living conditions of the squatters, Adams-Yearwood took up the task to ensure they received a better life.

“We didn’t know where we were going to find the land and the money…we began to plan and look at suitable areas…We took a little while, but I commend you for your patience…this is a new motivation to do better for yourself and families…I believe this activity and the act of giving you new homes will change and transform your lives,” said Minister Adams-Yearwood.

The minister’s sentiments were echoed by CEO of FFTP Guyana, Kent Vincent, who said the project will indeed impact the lives of those in need. “This project was in keeping with our mandate of brining relief to the poor and needy…this project is a special part of that work…wherever the cry of the poor is, we will be there,” said Vincent.

In ensuring that the needs of the Lombard Street squatters are met, FFTP had outfitted the 20 houses with indoor sanitary facilities and rain harvesting units. In addition, each family will receive two beds, a solar panel, tiles for the bathroom and dining tables. The furnishing of the house will cost approximately $2.7M. John was overwhelmed with elation, but managed to say that she is beyond happy for government’s contribution to their betterment. “I can’t wait to move in and we gone start a better life and achieve plenty goals because success don’t come over night,” said John, who will soon be giving birth to her first child.

She said the new house and community provides an opportunity for her to raise her child in conditions which are way better compared to her previous place of abode.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All our printed editions are available online
Subscribe to the Guyana Chronicle.
Sign up to receive news and updates.
We respect your privacy.