Fire destroyed a Catholic-run home for at-risk teenage girls in St. Vincent and the Grenadines Monday night.
All of the residents of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Home and the housemother, Donette Dowers were unscathed by the blaze, which gutted the first and second floor of the three story building at Cane End, Marriaqua.
Midmorning Tuesday, Minister of National Mobilisation, Frederick Stephenson and members of his staff met with the management of the home at the St. Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua, a Catholic secondary school.
Stephenson said that the home sometimes houses girls who are in state custody.
It had 12 residents at the time of the blaze he said, adding that two girls had been reintegrated into their families recently.
“Twelve girls are still remaining to be taken care of,” the minister told iWitness News.
He said that after talks with the management of the home, his ministry would decide what is in the best interest of the residents.
“… some of them, hopefully, will be reintegrated with families and the others, we as a government, the Ministry of National Mobilisation, would have to provide some form of housing to take care of these girls who are here.”
The blaze began sometime between 7 and 8 p.m. Monday.
Thaddeus Ross, one of two security guards who work at the home, was on duty Monday night.
He told iWitness News that the housemother had sent him to a nearby shop to purchase bread when he heard someone shouting, “Murder, call the police, call the police.”
Ross said he concluded that something had happened to someone so he ran back to the home.
When he got there, he heard that it was the building was on fire.
Ross said that at the time, the fire was on the second floor of the three-story building but he was not sure exactly where in the structure the fire started.
Asked how he feels about the fire and the fact that the building was destroyed, he said:
“That ah one make me feel like cry. Because ah my job. Ah me daily bread, so me must feel bad. He had been working there for a few years.”
Ross, like Roland McMillan, the other security guard, has been working at the home for over a decade.
McMillian, who was off duty Monday night, was at the same shop and assisted in early attempts to put out the fire.
He said the fire began in an apartment on the second floor.
“I feel bad. Ah my breadfruit tree. Ah my butter bread,” he said of the destruction of the home.
He said that residents had responded to the fire and had tried their best to contain it.
Meanwhile, Stephenson told iWitness News that with the destruction of the home, his ministry will have to boost its social work.
“… once we have an alternative venue, we would have to find persons who would have to cook for them, we would have to have housemothers,” he said.
“As you know, the government doesn’t have a facility like what the Catholic Church had here. The government provides a stipend for the Guadeloupe Home for girls. With this unfortunate incident it means that we would have to rent a facility.
“I don’t know how long the catholic community is going to take to rebuild this facility or if the government would have to rebuild a facility but in the meantime, we would have to rent somewhere for these at-risk girls,” the minister told iWitness News.