Lee: Reintegration shelter a success, now time for real solutions on housing dilemma
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Lee: Reintegration shelter a success, now time for real solutions on housing dilemma

Mr. Emil Lee (3rd from left) together with Dr. J Foundation staff during one of the tours of the reintegration shelter shortly after opening. Mr. Emil Lee (3rd from left) together with Dr. J Foundation staff during one of the tours of the reintegration shelter shortly after opening.

SINT MAARTEN (SUCKER GARDEN) - The reintegration shelter in Sucker Garden, managed by the Dr J. Foundation has been in many ways a successful program. When formulating opinions about this project, it is important to remember the purpose and facts. Indeed, there is a shortage of affordable housing and some people are in need of government support. 

However, the reintegration shelter was never designed to be a permanent solution for affordable housing. Housing at the shelter was just one part of the program services; the reintegration program itself served multiple purposes.

The Ministry of VSA (Public Health, Social Development and Labour) took a holistic approach at the addressing the financial and social issues faced by the most vulnerable groups with the specific objective of facilitating reintegration in the community. This being said, several of the clients already have successfully transitioned out of the shelter and back into the community. 

“The professional staff of the Dr J. Foundation continues to work with the Ministry of VSA to find solutions for the rest of the clients, which I am confident, will be completed by the project end date.” – Emil Lee

Management of the Dr J. Foundation in combination with the Ministry of VSA recognized at an early stage in the program that the current housing crisis would impact the ability of some clients to properly reintegrate into the community. Moreover, this concern was communicated to the Council of Ministers so that they could begin to find a more permanent solution.

Though finding a housing solution was not within the scope of the Ministry of VSA, the Ministry was working on a solution to provide “subsidized” housing for the most vulnerable groups. For example, a former hotel on Bush road was identified as a possible pilot project.

Requirements of the Pilot Project: 
1. Vacant property
2. Relatively minor investment to make functional.
3. Either uninsured or under insured.
4. Insufficient resources to rebuild. 
5. No creditors for the property other than government.

Proposal:
1.  Government would pay for the repairs. 
2.  The amount paid would be used to subsidize the rent making it affordable for the tenants. 
3.  Any outstanding debts i.e. taxes would be added to the amount to be repaid.  Nominal interest could be applied, if appropriate.
4.   Once the investment was repaid, the full control of the property would return back to the owner.


Win-win:
- The qualifying client benefits by living in a rent-subsidized home, making cost of living affordable.
- The property owner benefits by having a property repaired without investment required.  Ultimately, the property returns to the owner, repaired and without debt.
- The government benefits by being able to provide affordable housing to citizens in need.  Otherwise difficult to collect outstanding taxes are paid. 

All of us who experienced the past disaster have to deal with some form of traumatic stress and so we should focus more on solving the current housing problem rather than trying to benefit from the hysterical environment that exists by stressing the Reintegration Shelter clients even more. 

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