‘Rescued’ dwellers allowed to stay in Devotee City
STREET families “rescued” by the Cebu City government are now staying at the Devotee City.
As of yesterday, a total of 56 street families are staying in the temporary facility put up by the government to house Sto. Niño devotees who came here for the recently concluded Fiesta Señor.
The 120 container vans at the Devotee City remain open to accommodate pilgrims who are expected to arrive for the Statio Orbis closing Mass of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) on Sunday.
Over 42 families who were “rounded up” in operations conducted Wednesday night by the city’s Department of Social Welfare Services (DSWS) have been brought to the Devotee City. There are 14 remaining families from previous operations.
The “rescued” families were first brought to the abandoned Compania Maritima building, but they left because it was flooded after the heavy monsoon rains earlier this week.
The families complained that the area has become unlivable, and they would rather live on the streets.
“They can make use of the Devotee City, which can accommodate many people, with 120 container vans there. It’s safe, and a bit elevated so that problem is solved,” said Cebu City Administrator Lucelle Mercado.
Mercado said they expect only 50 to 100 IEC pilgrims who will arrive for Sunday’s big event. The Devotee City can accommodate over 4,000 people.
Mercado assured that the safety of the pilgrims is of their utmost priority and allowing the dwellers to stay in the Devotee City will not create a security issue.
Although no food will be provided, the street families will now have electricity the whole day, access to potable water, bathing facilities and cots.
Malang Bingasca, a 40-year-old mother who was among those who were “rescued,” thanked the city government for allowing them to use the Devotee City since her child was getting sick in the Maritima ground floor.
“Wala naman unta mi plano mubalik sa Maritima kay nisaka gyud ang tubig gabii og di nami makatulog. Lipay kaayo mi na puede ra na sa Devotee City nalang mi (We had no plans of going back to Maritima because the water rose too high that we could not sleep anymore. We are happy that we can use the Devotee City),” Bingasca said.
The Devotee City is set to close when the IEC ends, but DSWS chief Ester Concha said they are hoping to keep it open while a P4-million two-story facility for the dwellers is being completed.
“This is just a part of the long-term plan. We are not ‘rounding them up’. We are gathering them so we can help them either return to their homes outside of the city, or introduce them to livelihood programs and see where we can help,” said Concha.
Concha said the rescue operations are part of the “Comprehensive Program for Street Children, Street Families and Indigenous People” program of the city government.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 has earmarked P3.6 million for the project, which includes funds for rescue operations, temporary shelter, livelihood programs and bringing these street families back to their original homes.
Rescue operations from last week and Monday night yielded over 40 families. Most have returned to their hometowns with the help of social workers from the Cebu provincial government and the DSWD-7.
“We’re still looking into more ways to sustain this program. I repeat, this is not an operation to hide them from IEC delegates. This is a way for us to help them find a better tomorrow,” Concha said.
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