Urban Renewal Liveable Neighbourhood Programme to Promote Self-Empowerment

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Coordinator for the Urban Renewal Liveable Neighbourhood programme Ella Lewis talks about the aims of the programme at her office at the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance. (Photo/Raymond Bethel)

By: Llonella Gilbert

NASSAU, Bahamas — The government is leading and coordinating the Urban Renewal Liveable Neighbourhood programme but the aim is to get the urban communities to one day take over the project, according to New Providence programme co-ordinator Ella Lewis.

Ms. Lewis said, “The whole purpose of urban renewal is not to give people a handout but to give people a hand up; to help people in getting where they need to be.”

She explained that another objective of urban renewal is to assist those persons who might have fallen through the cracks for whatever reason, while letting them know the government does care.

“We are doing all we can in a structured fashion to get them up to where they need to be so they can take care of themselves.

“Urban renewal is not about giving people fish but teaching them how to fish for themselves so they can literally take care of themselves,” she pointed out. “We are not into feeding people for a day, but teaching them how to feed themselves for life and that is one of the objectives of urban renewal.”

The coordinator said until the communities are able to take up the mantle on their own, government agencies, departments and ministries will partner with civic organisations and businesses to bring improvements to the inner city.

Ms. Lewis, who has lived in the inner city all her life, is an educator has worked in the community for most of her life. Her desire is to see the same privileges enjoyed the suburbs experienced by everyone.

She explained during an interview at her office at the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance that the re-launched urban renewal programme is considered a “multi-component overarching concept” because it involves every aspect of the community.

Ms. Lewis said: “It involves the people who live there; it involves all of the departments of the government like the Department of Social Service which deals with social issues in the communities, as well as the Department of Environmental Health, which deals with the environmental issues that the inner city residents face.”

It also involves partnering with civic organisations as well as businesses that make their profits from the community.

“So it is an overarching concept where all of the different agencies and partners be it government, the church, civic organisations as well as the community come together.
The urban renewal programme is like the nucleus that holds the whole thing together.”

Ms. Lewis noted, meantime, that people must buy into the programme and feel more responsibility for it.

“It is not just the government coming in and cleaning up or just the government giving, giving, giving – it is the communities giving to themselves – assisting with the clean ups, assisting with the maintaining or sustaining the clean environment.”

Although all of these entities will be working together, the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance will be the coordinating ministry responsible for the re-launched urban renewal liveable neighbourhoods programme.

As the coordinator of the programme, Ms. Lewis is in constant contact with all urban renewal centres throughout New Providence.

“I speak to what is happening in all of the centres and try to keep them all abreast as to what is happening; I also ensure they all work together so that we have a structure and order; that the same thing happens in all of the centres and extra things as well.”

She added that her job also entails ensuring that people get what the government is paying for and that the government’s money does not go down the drain.

There are nine centre managers at each of the urban renewal sites and they are at the frontline of the urban renewal programme. They oversee the day-to-day activities at the centres.

Ms. Lewis said the centres have various programmes they have set up. These include after-school activities, senior citizens programmes, and community clean ups and beautifications.

There will be partnerships with pastoral associations to make them aware of what is going on in urban renewal as well as to allow urban renewal know what is going on in the churches.

There are steering committees for each urban renewal office which assist in determining the direction for the programme. They are made up of persons from the community who have an interest in focusing on the direction for the community.