It may be almost two years since Sunrise Cottage closed its doors in East End, but the absence of the residential facility for senior citizens is still being felt in the constituencies of East End and North Side.
In this week’s ‘Voter Voices’, the Cayman Compass went into the two furthermost eastern districts to hear some of the issues constituents want on the front-burner as the country heads to the polls on 14 April. Top of the list is a new residential facility for the elderly.
Old Man Bay resident Mitchell Whittaker says a seniors’ home should be built in the community as soon as possible.
“It’s supposed to be permanently in every district like how they had it in East End at the Sunrise. They’re supposed to have it. It [has] been gazetted for down by the Civic Centre for the old people,” he said.
The Sunrise Cottage, the Department of Children and Family Services’ oldest residential facility for seniors, was closed back in 2019 and the six residents there were relocated to the Golden Age Home in West Bay.
Government agreed to a new purpose-built facility to serve the needs of the older persons in the eastern districts, but plans were put on hold due to COVID-19 constraints.
With around half of the electorate in both districts over the age of 55, the facility for residents is a pressing need. Whittaker says it’s a challenge for residents who have to make the trip to West Bay to use the facility’s services or visit relatives.
“If my old lady or my old man has to go to the old people’s home, I have to catch a bus, go to town, catch another bus to go to West Bay, when it should have been up here so I can go and spend a whole day with my mother or my father instead of catching the bus,” he said.
His view was shared by John McLean Drive resident Chanel Martins.
“All the old people are being sent to West Bay when they should be in their own district, then we can visit them, spend time with them, like how we used to go sing.
Christmas time, we go and we sing ‘Merry Christmas’ and spend time with them. We can’t even do that because now they’re so far away from us. We want to have that back in our district,” she said.
She also said it is a challenge to get government assistance for those who need it in the eastern districts. Martins said she would like to see more government departments like the Needs Assessment Unit in the district reaching out to people who may not necessarily have the wherewithal to go to George Town to get a helping hand.
“You have a lot of people in our community who needs government assistance, like NAU [and] social services, yet when we go to NAU or social services, [they say] ‘Oh you make this kind of money, we can’t assist you with that’. You have bills… light bill, water bill, mortgage. You have to save money for medication, to pay the difference from your insurance. All of these little things adds up,” she said.
Policing, youth opportunities needed
For North Side residents, the absence of a permanent police officer is the area is a problem, especially when it comes to dealing with speeding motorists. “We need more policing up in here because every morning, going through here, and every evening, we have a lot of speeders in here. Suppose a car flip and a little child is by the road and you hit that little child… kill that little child. What are you going to say? Sorry? Sorry can’t bring back that child,” Whittaker said.
Another resident, who asked only to be referred to as Eric, agreed.
“It is an everyday problem… very much an everyday problem. More police presence is needed to act as a deterrent to keep this thing from happening so often. We know that there are definitely challenges for the police. That’s an area of great concern right now,” he said.
On the other side of the boundary in East End, the limited police presence is also a challenge.
An elderly couple in East End, who asked not to be named because they are worried about retaliation, complained about loud music disturbing their peace at night and especially on weekends.
They say they have lodged numerous complaints with police, but by the time officers get to their home, the music volume has been lowered, and then quickly raised again after the officers leave.
“The police are only passing through, they do not stop and pester nobody. They [do] not stop and talk to people. They do get the information, but they do not stop,” the couple complained.
They also said they would like to see bus shelters built in the community, as often travellers will have to run from the rain when waiting for transport along the main road.
Martins said she wants to see a greater focus on opportunities for young people in East End, which will help keep them out of trouble.
“Some of our kids have a lot of issues stemming from family problems… single parents [and] different issues and the school is not equipped to actually help us to deal with those situations. We also have issues in our communities with nothing for our children to do. We want more [programmes]… trade schools, cooking classes… activities that our kids can actually go and do those things instead of going to the bar rooms or turning to drugs,” she said.
Residents also called for increased employment opportunities for the area as well.