Covid19 has already devastated many lives in TT. One father of four told Sunday Newsday how he lost his source of income as a result of the covid19 restriction. Marcus Gibbs, also known as “Balloon Man,” usually makes up to $200 “on a good day” selling different styles, sizes and colours of balloons. He's been doing it for the past four years in San Juan.
Gibbs told Sunday Newsday on Thursday that selling balloons was his way of recovering after he was on the brink of being homeless and destitute. He survived by squatting in an old abandoned house a few streets away in the area. Though there’s no water or electricity, he said he was able to make his family happier and more comfortable.
Gibbs, originally from Bridge Road, Petit Bourg, is the sole breadwinner of the family, as his wife is currently unemployed.
His daily earnings were enough to feed his family and to meet their basic needs.
“I’m not someone to go around begging, despite my problems, because everyone has problems.
"But I tried to sneak a little hustle last week and police run me.”He said being unable to work because of the pandemic has left him unable to buy candles and insect repellent.
“I know it would not make sense to go out, because people only buying food. I know I’m essential to my family, because if I don’t work they can’t eat.”“In the night I have to buy candles, cockset (for) mosquitoes – this is why I need to always have money."
He said when the restrictions are lifted he will be able once again to provide for his family. “After covid19 I plan to continue to handle my story. I have four children, so I don’t have enough to pay rent right now. It’s not that I’m pleading for handouts. I do my thing to survive."He said he had previously helped needy children in the area, and even now he said. “Despite the challenges, my kids are intelligent and doing well in school and I continue to make myself available for community service.”
He found it hard to turn to the media to ask for help for his family during the stay-at-home period.
He looks on helplessly as the house continues to fall apart on them and he has no money for even temporary repairs. He showed Sunday Newsday an HDC application card for a new home submitted in 2013. Seven years later, he is despondent and pleading with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to speed up the process.
"People see your face but they don’t really know what happens. I’m crying out for accommodation so it’ll be better for us. I don’t want it for free – I just want help to be comfortable.“I appear to be happy, but no one sees your pain. I am so frustrated and desperate right now in this situation. I took this abandoned place trying to cope with bills, sending children to school.
“I thought 2020 would have been my year to get things going and make significant changes for my wife and two boys and two girls (nine, eight, five and four). Especially for my wife, since she hadn’t been herself since after we lost our baby three days after birth.”
He said he is thankful for help they have had from neighbours, and to the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services for a temporary food card.
Anyone willing to assist can call Gibbs at 280-4949.