Tue | Sep 29, 2020

It takes a village ... - Community rescues man from crumbling home

Published:Friday | July 3, 2020 | 12:27 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Nigel Townsend expressing concern over the structural soundness of his dwelling to The Gleaner on June 19. The house has been demolished by community members, who are now erecting a new home for Townsend.
Nigel Townsend expressing concern over the structural soundness of his dwelling to The Gleaner on June 19. The house has been demolished by community members, who are now erecting a new home for Townsend.

Good Samaritans at home and abroad have come to the assistance of a man living in squalor along Maxfield Avenue in St Andrew just over a week after The Gleaner highlighted his plight.

Nigel Townsend, 59, had expressed fear to our news team last week that his dilapidated home could soon cave in and seriously injure him or take his life.

Yesterday, he was more upbeat as he reflected on his turn of fortune in such a short space of time, expressing gratitude for the assistance.

“Mi feel all right ya now. Mi feel very good. Mi all a put in some work. Thanks to the supporters, and thanks to The Gleaner. Feel like things a go improve,” Townsend said on Wednesday.

The Gleaner understands that building material have been sourced and more pledges of support are expected.

“We a make good progress ‘cause we, basically, demolish the old structure and we get in most of the material, and a lot of help coming in, so we know that Rama (Townsend) a go give thanks when this structure is up,” a resident, Anthony Burry, said.

He said that community members and other natives who now live abroad were moved by the Gleaner feature and decided to pitch in to improve Townsend’s living condition.

Keemo Brown, who was instrumental in bringing Townsend’s living condition to The Gleaner’s attention, is thankful that help has arrived.

“Foundation dig. We [will soon] start the mixing and get things going. Big respect to the community for taking it on and others who have assisted and those still to assist,” he said. “Rama is a good elder in a the place. Him assist whole heap a people, so we a return the favour and watch the blessings flow.”

The residents said they had still not seen or heard anything from their political representatives – Whitfield Town Division Councillor Eugene Kelly or St Andrew South West Member of Parliament Dr Angela Brown-Burke – who they know will have reason to visit in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, Kelly told The Gleaner that he was aware of Townsend’s plight, which was part of a wider housing crisis in the area.

“I did see your news report … . We did a poll [within the constituency], and housing is the number-one issue. It beat out youth unemployment,” Kelly said.

“We stand ready to assist [Townsend]. I am working with the member of parliament to see what we can do,” he added before saluting the residents for coming to Townsend’s rescue. “We want to join the efforts.”

According to Kelly, many of the present structures in the constituency were erected in the 1930 and ‘40s.

Parish councillors are allocated roughly $180,000 annually to assist constituents with home repairs, while members of parliament get between $2 million and $3 million.

“The housing stock needs a multibillion-dollar effort … ,” Kelly said. “We have 25,000 people on the voters’ list … . We [are] fixing one, one house, but there are hundreds more.”

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com