Residents Take On HOME & The Community Meeting – One Father’s Views Regarding HOME Setting Up At Messina House On Boaz Island on Thursday, March 24, 2022

Recorded In Studio At Ch82 Crimson Multimedia

● Everyone around here seems to supports the idea of helping the homeless. We all recognise it’s a problem for those individuals to be given the security of housing is a beautiful thing. What is not okay issetting up a shelter for 24 people in the heart of a dense community of probably around 150 kids, a fewhundred adults and not even bothering to share plans of doing so in advance.

● HOME cannot be selective when trying to protect the vulnerable. They gave no thought to the Boaz Island community that is now vulnerable to a daily flow of unstable persons walking through our neighbourhood on a daily basis. At times openly drinking or clearly under the influence of something. Even if they’re not and they suffer from mental instability instead, do I feel comfortable with them being in the neighbourhood now? Of course not. We want as wholesome of an environment as possible for our children to enjoy around their home. Our neighbourhood, as much as possible, should be a safeplace for our children to enjoy.

● Would the Board of HOME have set this up in their own neighbourhoods? Would they have consulted with their neighbours first? Is this something that they would even consider? I’m sure the answer is no. The way they snuck into our neighbourhood and are running their shelter is disrespectful to everyone that lives here and even unfair to their own shelter residents. If one of their shelter residents gets into atangle with a child or a parent, the outcome could be a disaster for all involved.

● The fact that doing work to help the homeless is a good thing, does not make them immune from being questioned about how they operate their shelter – we have a right to know as we’re the ones exposedto the risks every day! This is not an attack on the work they wish to do. Our concerns are rightful concerns and sensible questions to an organisation that should be prevented from making mistakes intheir operation that others would have to pay for. No one wants that risk here. No one wants anexperimental shelter in their neighbourhood that’s not regulated.

● What laws do they have to follow? Who’s regulating them? It seems they have a close working relationship with Minister Tinée Furbert. She showed up to defend them (HOME) at our community meeting and did more harm than good. Right now the trust is broken. The great majority want HOME to leave the neighbourhood.

● A meeting was held and our concerns were not addressed. At the meeting on March 24th, never have I seen so many people in the neighbourhood come out and meet together. There were more than 70 people there. The meeting started with Denise (ED of HOME) talking about the issue of homelessness in Bermuda. I agreed on the issues, and that we need to solve them, but what I really wanted to hear was her addressing our concerns. She ended her presentation and never addressed any concerns we had. I was told that HOME was provided with a list of concerns beforehand. Forwhatever reason, HOME thought that not talking about these was the right thing to do. I wondered if Iwas the only person feeling this way.

● An assault has already happened, and for us, that’s enough. HOME has already failed.Afterwards, the father of a young boy that was assaulted by one of HOME’s residents was speakingabout his family’s experience.

● The community seemed united in their concern. Immediately after, the crowd was bursting with wanting to speak and to ask questions to HOME. By the statements people were making and thequestions they had, I immediately could tell that almost everyone was appalled, angered, even offended that this occurred right on the playing field on Boaz Island. A couple or few people spoke tosupport HOME: one was their employee and another was a lady from BDA Housing Corp who did not live in the neighbourhood.

● Boaz Island residents were not consulted in advance. For some organisations similar to HOME, this is a legal requirement. People were VERY upset not only about the assault, but the fact that HOME did not bother to engage the community about their plans before going to Boaz Island. To make matters worse, when Denise shared that professional mental evaluations were not being used toscreen their shelter residents, that they would be allowed to continue abusing drugs and alcohol while being residents of HOME’s shelter, that there was no curfew for shelter residents, and several other concerning things, we left even more upset than when we arrived.

● HOME is not acting in good faith and has Minister Tinee Furbert’s support. I was told that HOME was not willing to share their operating plans and procedures with us. I learned at the meeting that HOME could have chosen to follow some guidelines or laws to make sure they are doing things correctly, but are not doing so. Surely this was a good time for Minister Tinee Furbert to speak. And she did. She started to downplay the assault that occurred on the field with the young boy. The crowd shut her down. As quick as she stood up she had to sit back down because the crowd didn’t want to hear nonsense. The police were apparently called about the assault and occurred. It was insensitive and no one appreciated her approach. At this point, I knew that the Minister was not going to be on our side. All we want is safety, accountability and information. We still don’t have that.

● One lady from HOME’s board strongly acknowledged our concerns. She was the only Board member to sit with us in the audience.

● WEDCO’s position is not known. A WEDCO person was there. He did not speak. What is WEDCO’s position on this? Did they lease to HOME before HOME had planning permission to be there? Does HOME even have planning permission to be there? How long is HOME’s lease? Will it be renewed? Why didn’t WEDCO reach out to the community? They own many properties on Boaz Island and have all the connections to reach us.