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Are State entities failing needy citizens?

Published: 
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Jasmine Reyes looks at her bedridden son Randy Reyes at their HDC apartment,Tower D,East Grove Valsayn, yesterday.

There is no other way to explain the situation that affects Reyes and her family. Allocated a unit on the seventh floor of a high-rise apartment complex at East Grove, Valsayn, Reyes has struggled for the past couple of years whenever she had to take her bedridden paraplegic son for treatment and other needed services. The problem was exacerbated by an often non-functioning elevator in the building.

Ms Reyes’ situation is so critical that just last Friday she had to seek the help of the Fire Service to take him out of the building for an appointment. Luckily for her, this arm of the protective services responded to her plight.

But how did Ms Reyes come to be in such a desperate situation? Two and a half years ago when the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) allocated her an apartment, she told them her son, Randy, now 20, was paralysed and a ground floor unit would best suit her needs.

Her request was a simple one and should have been facilitated then, especially given the fact that her son was a victim of crime. He was shot in the head by a stray bullet while playing football with friends on a Diego Martin street in 2014. Randy was yet another of the innocent victims of crime this country has been accumulating over the years.

Why did the HDC employee who dealt with Ms Reyes, coerce her into taking a seventh-floor apartment albeit with a promise to search for another home? Surely, given Ms Reyes’ specific needs, that public servant should have known that no other accommodation would have been suitable for the family. Of course changing those arrangements meant more work for that HDC employee, so rather than go the extra mile to serve this client, the employee took the easy way out.

Two-and-a-half years later, Housing Minister Randall Mitchell and HDC managing director Brent Lyons are now stepping in to rectify the problem only after it was highlighted by this newspaper. However, even after this high level intervention, Ms Reyes is being offered another unsuitable option. HDC’s Social and Allocations Department on Wednesday offered to relocate the family to a two-bedroom home in Morvant. It is either the employee dealing with the case did not do proper research, or couldn’t care less about Ms Reyes’ plight although, according to Mr Lyons, the HDC actually investigated her case and “empathises with her situation.”

For now, Ms Reyes has no choice but to soldier on with her son until the HDC finds the promised alternative accommodation.

To its credit, an officials from the Ministry of Health has contacted Ms Reyes to see how best they can help with her son’s health issues.

There is another recent case of callous treatment meted out to a physically-challenged person. Khaleesi Webb, five, was rejected by three primary schools when her mother, Kerisha Crawford-Webb, tried to get her enrolled for the forthcoming 2017/18 academic year. That situation too, after being highlighted by this newspaper, forced an intervention by Education Minister Anthony Garcia and there was a quick resolution.

In both cases, however, staff at the institutions involved seem to have forgotten their core mandate is to serve the public. Indeed, something has to be fundamentally wrong when individuals in such dire circumstances are not given top priority.

The hope is that both ministers will take a serious look into the operations of agencies under their purview to ensure such situations do not recur. Passing on such a mandate to other entities, like the dreaded Licensing Division of the Ministry of Transport, would not be a bad idea either.

In both cases, however, staff at the institutions involved seem to have forgotten their core mandate is to serve the public. Indeed, something has to be fundamentally wrong when individuals in such dire circumstances are not given top priority.