House of horrors

This thick blanket of vines, roots and trees is hiding more than just a house.

by Davidson Bowen

Rats, bees, giant African snails, an emerging dumping ground, a canopy of bush which may be hiding more than just a house and the fear of it could all come crashing down on them, has some residents in Heywood’s Park, St. Peter very uneasy.

The two-bedroom house, which was damaged in 2004 by a falling boulder from the nearby cliff, now looks as if it is being consumed by a thick vine and residents want something done immediately.

“I left home one day and came back to find the fire truck and the police and was told that piece of the cliff broke off and damaged the house. My heart went out to the two young people but I really couldn’t do anything for them and it looks as if no one is doing anything for them.

“The bush take over, then the rats came, now we’ve got bees and some unconscionable residents; residents of Heywood’s Park where we live are now dumping palm tree branches and other things they don’t want at them on the property,” said Randall Butts, a resident since 1997.

Butts pointed out that he and the neighbour who lives directly beside the overgrown property were discussing the situation only yesterday and were ready to call the media since nothing had happened at the house for years.

“This guy works at the Cement Plant, he noticed the bees but the tall bush has him uneasy because he has a wife. I calling he cell phone and I not hearing him. But he actually spoke to the workmen that are clearing the site across the road there and agreed to pay them about $200 to clear in front that house cause it is a disgrace and a health risk. Not only rats, but a whole man and he friends can hide in there. You see how much bush there? And at night you don’t know what lawless people would get up to,” Butts added.

Another resident you lives north of the overrun property said he does not even drive pass the house for fear of it falling or something else happening.

“The bush is reaching into the road and for all I know it might wait till I passing and tumble down. It is not safe and I don’t feel safe passing there so I don’t,” he said.

Meanwhile, owners of the house, Michelle and Shawn Foster, have migrated to Canada in search of a better life for themselves and their two children after spending thousands of dollars, pleading with authorities and even engaging the attention of the court.

“I cannot tell you how many thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands and then some that we had to spend because of that house. When the cliff came down on the house it left us all very shaken. My husband ran out the house thinking it was an earthquake,” she recalled, adding that her daughter Shawnell was so traumatised they could not even pass the house.

Foster recalled that after the house was damaged they moved in with her mother for about two week and then back to Heywood’s Park where they were renting another house about 400 meters away.

“All this time we were still paying a mortgage for a house that we could not live in — a house that we had just begun to make a home. We had just finished the banister on the stairs and if you go there I am sure you will see cement and other materials because we were building cupboards and stuff.

“Then along with the mortgage we were paying rent. We got a little ease when a government officer, I can’t even remember which one gave us a subsidy of about $700 or so, but that was just for three months. This situation has drained us financially.

“Nobody wants to take responsibility for what happened to us. It was a constant fight, even to get to court was a fight. The house is damaged beyond repair. When the rain fell you didn’t only hear the water, you felt it, you saw it coming in the house. I had to borrow money to pay lawyer fees, uproot my family. It came to a point where we honestly did not know where to turn and now we are just waiting, still, after seven years,” she said.

Foster stressed that her frustration rose to a level she never experienced when although the damaged house was there for everyone to see all the entities involved from the approval of the spot to the building of the house were shifting blame behaving as if human beings were not being affected.

“We were told to grab only what was absolutely necessary. That is how serious the matter was. But nobody is willing to accept responsibility. Me and my husband bought a house; we had plans of building an apartment downstairs to rent. We had a plan for our future and all of that was taken away not just the $500,000 the house was once valued at; our dreams were taken away and you can’t put a value on that, you just can’t,” she said.

Reverend Keith Griffith, who lives in Douglas Development which is directly above Heywood’s Park, said he was very concerned when he saw houses being built directly below the cliff.

“This is a sudden drop, it might not look so because of the bush and so forth but it is a sudden drop and when you take into account the amount of water that sometimes flows off of here, and the force it is going down with if you build directly below here you should expect some sort of problem. I don’t think the land below here should have been put up for sale as house spot. It is not fair to the prospective home owner,” he said while looking down on Foster’s roof which was covered in a canopy of bush.

Karen Gilkes, a former tenant who lived in a house about 100 meters away from the Foster’s, said she too was forced to leave the area because of the problems the cliff posed.

“Sometimes you would just be hearing water. There was mold growing on everything. Before I left for work every morning my job was to put down towels and when I got back on evenings they were soaked and no one could say where this water was coming from,” Gilkes said.

Meanwhile residents are appealing to the relevant authorities to not only compensate the Fosters but to demolish the house and clear the spot which they now see as a health hazard.

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