On Saturday, August 23 the Rotaract Club of Abaco went into two homes to begin Project HELP (Housekeeping for Elderly Persons.) Rotaractors, through Project HELP, clean the homes of the elderly or infirm on Abaco. Though the group knew to expect living areas that needed thorough cleaning, they were appalled by what they actually found.
According to Jo-Ann Bradley, a Rotarian who joined the Rotaractors that day, “We expected we would sweep, mop, dust, vacuum and polish the two apartments which are each one half of a duplex situated in Murphy Town on the edge of the community.”
She continued, “We were shocked at what we encountered. Apparently the facility was built by the Department of Social Services to house the two men. Each apartment, a mirror image from the other, had a small porch, small living room and kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom. Both men are disabled. One is wheelchair bound with a speaking impediment and the other thin to the point of emaciation.”
The two elderly gentlemen living in the duplex were disabled and unable to properly care for themselves.
“The garbage can next to the sink was full of rotting garbage that stank,” Mrs. Bradley said, “The stove had two pots on the burners, each half full of rotting food. The roaches were thick…they scattered when I approached and they leapt onto my arms and legs trying to get out of my way.”
The duplex, built and maintained by the Department of Social Services, has no wheelchair ramp or accessibility. This left one of the residents, who is wheelchair bound, a virtual prisoner in the apartment.
When the Rotaract Club turned on the faucet to start washing dishes they found that there was no running water in the sinks. The bathtubs had water but the toilets were malfunctioning and leaking pipes were visible.
The Club contacted Pinder’s Plumbing who sent an expert out right away and repaired all the water issues. Pinder’s Plumbing did so at a discount.
Mrs. Bradley continued to describe the conditions of the homes, “I scrubbed the cabinet under the kitchen sink. It was crusted with roach droppings and took a full 45 minutes to get it clean. The bedding was smelly, even a touch greasy and hadn’t been washed in what seemed like months.
“We took all the sheets and clothes from each side and put them in separate plastic bags and drove them to a Laundromat which set about washing and drying everything, at no charge to the Rotaractors. The owner of the Laundromat even delivered the clothes back within two hours.”
The window handles in the duplex were broken and the windows unable to be opened. This posed a serious issue since the units were not air-conditioned and neither man was in a condition to move outside to escape the oppressive heat.
Another problem was that the roof had sprung a leak, and the ceiling tape was pulling away from the drywall because of water damage.
“I was quite upset at the conditions these men were living in,” said Jo-Ann. “A man starved to the point of collapse with no running water in his kitchen, a leaky roof, a malfunctioning toilet and windows that will not open and open piles of rotting garbage….his neighbor in a wheelchair, unable to speak clearly….his windows inoperable, his bathroom sink broken, and both men needing their walls washed, floors mopped, fridge cleaned, clothes and linens cleaned.”
The following Monday the Club representative went to the Department of Social Services and described the problems since the Department is the de facto landlords of the building.
Support for Rotaract and Project Help came from the sponsoring Rotary Club of Abaco. A grant for the purchase of two vacuum cleaners and other cleaning supplies were provided. Rotarian Dwayne Wallas is the liaison between the two clubs and Rotarian Jo-Ann Bradley accompanied the Rotaract Club to the first two apartments to be cleaned.