Crime Features — 09 September 2014 — by Albert J. Ciego
Homeless fire victims having a hard time

BELIZE CITY–Less than three weeks after the house of Sonia Harris and her family in the Gungulung area, along with almost all their belongings, was burnt down, the family is facing many difficulties.

Harris and her family have together been trying to rebuild a house on the land and foundation, but a stop order has been issued to her by Floyd Williams and 4 others of the area, ordering her to stop and desist from building the house until further notice. On top of this, she and her husband cannot return to New York in the United States, where they are employed, because the travel documents of her husband were all destroyed by the fire and he is unable to get a passport because he is a Trinidad national, and there is no Trinidad Embassy in Belize. He must travel to Trinidad to get a new passport, but he is unable to travel out of the country because he has no travel documents.

They are presently sleeping on the floor of a relative’s home. To add to their woes, Harris said that she and her family are being evicted from the land, which they have occupied for 20 years, long before the Gungulung was inhabited. Her son, Kent Skeet, who died two years ago, was a pioneer in the area, long before people went to live in the area, and he had made sacrifices in order to develop the property under harsh conditions, she said.

Skeet had been working for the Honorable Boots Martinez, and the minister had built the house for him, after which he built two more structures on the land. After Skeet died, Harris became the owner of the property. She said that the house and land had been a testament of her son’s hard work, although she was the one who sent money to him from the States so that he could develop the yard, because the area was swampy, with water reaching up to the hip, and there was no road, but they braved the difficulties to develop the land into what it is today. She had visited annually to see the development of the land, she said.

New-house-of-Sonia-Harris

Harris said that they had never been contacted by the City Council and told to stop construction on the land. Her son was living in the area for years, and nothing was said, and there were no problems. She said that now that they are trying to rebuild the house, after its destruction by fire, a stop order has been issued to her, and she has not been given a place to live, even temporarily while the problem is being addressed.

She said that their situation is already difficult and they are suffering sufficiently, but this stop order is adding onto their stress.

Harris is a Belizean and pays her taxes, she says. She noted that she works in the United States and sends home money, and some consideration should be given to her. Harris reasoned that consideration should be given to the fact that they were pioneers in the area before the development, and the road infrastructure was not yet developed, and in light of that fact the stop order should not be issued to her.

She calls on the Mayor and the Prime Minister to intervene. They can contact her at 634 – 7698, or she can contact them, she said. She said that she is not seeking a handout. They are trying their best to rebuild their house using their meager resources, but it is being made difficult for her.

In the meantime, she has made an application for the land.

Harris’ nephew was remanded to the Belize Central Prison on charges of arson for his role in starting the fire that destroyed Harris’ house.

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