Homeless for the holidays

| 17/12/2008

(CNS): Having lost her Watering Place home twice to hurricanes, once in 1980 to Hurricane Allen and last month to Paloma, 73-year-old Meridith Dilbert is now the last of Cayman Brac’s homeless remaining at the Aston Rutty Civic Centre, the island’s main hurricane shelter and for the last month a refuge for those displaced by Paloma.

Dilbert is currently staying at night in the medical wing of the Civic Centre, not because she is sick but so she will have company since eleven elderly clients from the Kirkconnell Community Care Centre (KCCC), which was badly damaged in the storm, are still staying there until the Centre is repaired. Prior to that she was sleeping in the upstairs balcony in a room set up with cots, dormitory-style, with KCCC staff. Now that they have found alternative accommodation, and with nowhere else for the government to place her, Dilbert has been given a bed in the new medical wing.

Still, Dilbert feels depressed and forgotten. She has been told that she will be given one of the new trailer homes but she doesn’t know when that will be and she is scared that she will be turned out of the Civic Centre. “They’re not interested in me. That’s the whole matter and the truth of it,” she said. (Left: A few days after the storm, Meridith Dilbert sits where her house used to be while a couple of good samaritans help sort though her belongings.)

“From the time the storm been here, I don’t have nowhere to go. No one has come here and said, ‘Meridith, we’re going to get you somewhere,’ and no one is checking that I have anything to eat.” She said that while the shelter wardens remained after the storm, they took good care of her, but since they went home she feels that she has been left to fend for herself and has lost weight since the storm.

All she got of all the emergency supplies given out after Paloma was a zipper-bag of rice, Dilbert said, though she did get parcels sent to her from people in Grand Cayman. “They’re not looking out for me in the right way at all.”

A source from the Department of Children and Family Services said that Dilbert was a priority, but admitted that she had not received any counselling and that there were probably others who would also benefit from this service. (Right: Meridith sits on her cot at the ARCC)

No one appears to know how many displaced people there are following Paloma. Some elderly residents have been sent to Grand Cayman to stay with relatives there, and there are an unknown number of people staying with friends and waiting for the trailer homes to be ready or homes to be repaired or rebuilt. Rental accommodation was snapped up very fast after the storm.

Deputy District Commissioner Mark Tibbetts said that there were 17 trailer homes in Watering Place. A lot of work had been needed to make them liveable, including building a septic system and doing the electrical work so that they could be hooked up to the mains, but they were hoping to have between one and three homes ready by this coming weekend.

Another nine were on their way from Grand Cayman and there was a strong possibility that these would be placed in private yards so that they could be hooked up to the main grid and the existing septic system. A number of people were in need of a trailer home and the decisions about who would get them would involve the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing, Tibbetts said.

Meanwhile Meridith Dilbert waits for something to hope for. “This place is like a prison,” she said.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Could someone start a fund for this dear lady.  I dont have much but will contribute.  Perhaps is a lot of folks could join in-a small one floor 900sq ft home could be built for this lady.  Surely that could be done. 



  2. Anonymous says:

    WE are a small enough community that this should not have to happen.

    I remember after Ivan in GCM passing out plastic cups and toilet paper to complete strangers…. surely there is some family that can step forward to help and if not a fellow Caymanian can step forward to help.


  3. Twyla M Vargas says:

    I am also very saddned to read this story, but I do believe something can be done.  I have always respected the words of my Grandmother Netty levy who died at age 106 in the district of Bodden Town.  She said "YOU NEVER FAIL UNTIL YOU STOP TRYING"{

    i do not have any money to help build a home for this person, but I am willing to assist with getting help for construction.

    I am wondering if there is someone out there reading this email knows someone, who knows someone else who will donate materials to assist.  We can make a start somewhere.  Please contact me, if anyone wants to start doing something.

    We never know what will happen in life on this earth, lets build our treasures in heaven.

    God Bless

  4. Anonymous says:

    I was sad when I read this story especially at the holiday for someone to lose their home and have no where to go.  Time are hard in Cayman for alot of people this year but it is even harder for those that was affect by Hurricane Paloma that do not have a home to go back to.  I do not have a job and have been out of work since September and I know how hard things can be but at least I have a house to go home to.  I wish there is something that I could do for this lady in Cayman Brac but since being unemployed I have found things hard myself and dont know when I will find a job and the bills are mounting up but at least I healthly and still have my home even though I dont know how long that will be for with me not having a job but I thank Lord every day that Paloma did not affect Cayman because I dont know what i will do if it did.