Mercedes Gonzalez Amade
HAVANA TIMES — Some time ago, when I was interviewed by the Havana Times, I spoke of my disability and shared some of my experiences and aspirations. Today, like back then, the most pressing problem I face is my housing situation and the repercussions this has on my health and quality of life.
Many of the ills of our society are rooted in the lack of a decorous place to live, a place where one can find comfort and wellbeing and recover the energy one invests in one’s daily work.
Though we enjoy some benefits, persons with severe disabilities often feel neglected and marginalized when it comes to this issue. Our limitations also make it more difficult for us to find a solution to the problem.
One of the priorities of the Cuban Association for People with Physical and Motor Disabilities (ACLIFIM) was to provide one disabled person with housing every year. Even though very few houses were assigned to us because of corruption in the sector, at least this was something.
Recently, I was summoned to a meeting at the Municipal Housing Office and was able to confirm what many of us had imagined.
I was summoned for two reasons. First, because I am the Vice-Chair of ACLIFIM’s Social Integration Department for the neighborhood of Marianao and second, because my name is one of the many on the list (drawn up over the past 15 years) of disabled persons in need of housing.
The news: the institution has cancelled its housing program.
Now, those of us facing this serious problem will only have some assistance or a small subsidy to repair our homes. In the majority of cases, such aid is no help. Many, for instance, need to move to a ground-level residence, expand their bedroom or find independent housing, and none of that can be done with a small amount of money.
It’s hard for people who are going through hell where they live, whose one hope of change in their lives was this one option, to face up to the news that it is no longer an option for them. The other alternative is buying a house, but most people are struggling just to get by and don’t even have enough money to rent a room to live in.
For instance, I live with 18 other people. If they give me some form of aid to repair or build a room, I would have to do it on the second floor, and my disability makes it impossible for me to go up a flight of stairs, so I am bound hand and foot.
I am one of the thousands of forlorn people who do not know who to turn to or what to do.
I understand every law has its pros and its cons, that one has to think about the big picture, but there is a part of society that is more vulnerable than the rest and that is the part that needs the most help.
I understand the world economy has experienced ups and downs and that our country is not spared the consequences of this, in addition to having to deal with its own problems, which it has never been able to overcome. Even so, I can’t help but feel sad that we, the disabled, are often the worst hit.