Persons living in emergency shelters around the territory can now breathe a sigh of relief as government has promised to guide them while they transition from emergency shelters, back into the real world.
Citing several factors for the closure of hurricane shelters territory-wide, the Government of the Virgin Islands announced plans to assist persons who now have to vacate the shelters where they have been living almost three months after the hurricanes.
Days ago, the Rotary Club confirmed to BVI News that they were planning to wind down shelter operations. This left shelter habitants worried, with most suggesting that government assist them with repairing their homes before giving them the boot.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Development today, they sought to clear the air on the reasons for the closure.
“As the territory marks the approach of the 12 weeks since the passage of the hurricanes and the end of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, and given the deactivation of the National Emergency Operations Centre, emergency shelters will be formally closed on November 30.”
According to the release, persons remaining in communal shelters have been assessed by the Department of Social Development in order to identify appropriate housing solutions.
It was revealed in the assessment that several individuals are able to return to their homes with assistance being provided by government, private businesses and individuals, and non-profit organisations (NPOs). Others, on the other hand, require alternative accommodations on an interim or long-term basis.
“The Government and several NPOs will continue to provide financial assistance and social support to these persons and others based on need, in order to aid the transition from emergency shelter accommodation to temporary or permanent housing,” the release said.
Housing Recovery Policy Plan made
Furthermore, the Ministry of Social Development said it has prepared a detailed Housing Recovery Policy and Plan for affected persons. It said the recovery policy aims to ensure the health, safety, and dignity of disaster-affected individuals and households.
The Recovery Policy and Plan provides a comprehensive framework for meeting short, medium and long-term disaster-related housing needs; building on the provisions of the Emergency Shelter Policy.
The release further noted that efforts are being made to conduct repairs to community centres that were used as emergency shelters. This, the release said, is to ensure that centres can once again be used to service the respective communities.
These works will involve repairs to the roof and other non-structural elements of these buildings.
Close to 300 persons were housed in shelters following the major hurricanes. These included the 162 persons who were evacuated from Anegada before Irma, and housed at the New Testament Church of God in Baugher’s Bay.
Over the past months, the number of shelter occupants has fluctuated as several persons returned to their homes, left the territory, or taken up residence with family or friends.
As of November 13, some 12 facilities remain open; accommodating 82 persons on Tortola mainly at the Multi-Purpose Complex, community centres, and at churches.
Sixty-one persons were being accommodated in apartments/villas, houses, community centres, and two churches on Virgin Gorda.
Twenty-five persons on Jost Van Dyke are living in shelter boxes provided by the Rotary Clubs.
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