City Council moving to demolish old Guyana Sports Club
Seventeen families living in deplorable conditions By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
July 11, 2003

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The Mayor and City Council is making preparations to demolish the long-condemned Guyana Sports Club on Thomas Lands threatening seventeen families with homelessness.

The M&CC will also move to demolish another condemned building at the corner of Regent and Wellington streets which it had made attempts in the past to dismantle but was prevented from doing so by the occupants.

Should the court grant such an order to the council over one hundred persons would be without a home. Yesterday Stabroek News visited occupants of both buildings.

At Regent Street, the occupants are mostly men who use the building as a safe haven to conduct their own business. There are a few families in the building but they declined to make any comment to this newspaper. In front of the building a few vendors have been using the fence to display their goods. These persons are not occupants. Stabroek News observed two garbage heaps in the yard. The building is in a deplorable state but the occupants say they have nowhere to go.

At Thomas Lands this newspaper discovered that over seventeen families were living in the building which lacks a proper roof, windows and a safe floor. One resident said that there were persons who had been living in the building for over twenty years. According to one occupant when they had first moved in, the building was in good repair, but vandals who themselves were occupants had stolen boards off the wall and destroyed other parts of the building.

Stabroek News was told that when it rained heavily some occupants were forced to set up makeshift roofs within the structure. One resident said the floor was very shaky and occupants have to tread carefully since a few people had fallen through it.

The building has no electricity neither is there any water. Asked how they survived, one woman said, they had kerosene lamps and would from time to time draw water from a standpipe at the nearby Queen’s College or at the National Park. The occupants have two washrooms in the open yard covered with rice bags and old roofing sheets. Scores of children below the age of ten are among the occupants of the building which is surrounded by overgrown weeds, clogged drains and tall trees bracing the exterior of the building. The walls both inside and outside are plastered with insect dung and beneath the steps are huge piles of debris apparently thrown there by the residents.

The occupants declared that had they not been in such desperate condition they would not be there. The M&CC in a press release said that the building was in an extremely ruinous state and beyond repair. According to the council, it poses a serious threat to life and limb and is in contravention of the City Public Health Ordinances and the Municipal and District Councils Act. The council stated that warning notices were issued to owners of both buildings but they had failed to comply.

Ironically, among the occupants is an employee of the M&CC, who has been living in the building for over six years She said that she had a plot of land already, but could not access a loan to build a house. According to the woman, she had applied to the M&CC for a loan a long time ago but up to now she could not get it. Asked whether she had approached any of the banks, the woman said wherever she went she was given a royal runaround.

“Let me tell you boy. Look at this place, you think if me had somewhere else to go I would ah live hay?”

The woman said she sometimes felt ashamed to know it was such a building she was calling her home.

“But only poor people would live in a place like this. Everybody here is poor people. We are struggling to find food when the day come, much less to find a house.”

According to her, out of the seventeen families, thirteen of them were granted house lot allocations by the Ministry of Housing at Parfait Harmonie, but they were waiting on the ministry to put in place infrastructure before they start building.

A young mother of two told this newspaper that she ended up at the building after her parents had put her out of their house. She said she had become pregnant at seventeen and her parents told her she could no longer stay in their home. According to the mother of two, she and her boyfriend were invited to the building by another occupant and after assessing the place they moved in permanently. She said her boyfriend did not have a permanent job, but for the time being they have been able to survive with assistance from her parents and friends at the building.

An elderly man recommended that the government should build thatched houses for them. He said most of the occupants were in agreement with the council that the building was dangerous, but their main problem was to find a better place to stay.