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Blind family to benefit from social housing in Westmoreland

Published:Wednesday | December 21, 2022 | 1:40 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Viris Lynch
Viris Lynch


VIRIS LYNCH and her two visually impaired daughters are among several families in Westmoreland slated to receive housing solutions under the Government’s indigent social housing programme, valued at approximately $25.7 million.

Derrick Baker is Lynch’s husband and father to Shanelle Baker. She lost her sight in 2015 and Veneisha Baker lost her sight in 2017. Vanessa Baker is also blind.

Lynch, 64, lost her sight in 2016. Shanelle, who was 32, perished in a fire in 2021 that destroyed her unfinished two-bedroom board dwelling in the parish.

In the space of nine years, four women in the family have become blind and been forced to live in discomfort in Crowder, Grange Hill.

In a Gleaner interview on Tuesday, Baker welcomed plans by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, from which the indigent social housing programme is being administered, for assistance in transforming the lives of his relatives with a three-bedroom house.

“It’s been a long time now that I am suffering, so I am glad to know that the Government is going to give me and my family a house,” said Baker, whose last job was as a tractor driver, working with the Frome sugar factory.

He resigned just over eight years ago to care for his family.

Baker, the breadwinner for his family, said it has been a struggle to make ends meet, especially with him now not earning a salary. He also said his fading health has further compounded his ability to work.

“It’s only the mercy of the faithful people around us who are lending a helping hand why we are able to actually survive this long,” he explained. “We get a little help here and there, but nothing major. But we have to be grateful because things are tough.”

Baker told The Gleaner that his family was excited about the home acquisition.

“We are searching, finding, and gradually doing what we can to assist those persons who are in need,” said Desmond McKenzie, minister of local government and rural development. “Therefore, I am pleased to announced that this three-bedroom unit will be built at a cost of $12.5 million.”

McKenzie said that the procurement process is at an advanced stage.

The minister also said that the Government, since 2016, has been paying attention to the destitute and homeless within the parish, ensuring that hot meals are being distributed to the street population.

He stated that the Government has increased its support to the indigent programmes across Westmoreland.

While McKenzie didn’t disclose the identities of the beneficiaries, he named the communities where houses will be built.

“In Belvedere, we are going to be constructing a two-bedroom unit at a cost of $9 million for another family who is in need of a housing solution,” McKenzie said.

“In Darliston, an elderly lady there will benefit from a studio unit, one bedroom that is now under construction at a cost of $4.2 million.”