National Coordinator for the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme, Colonel Martin Rickman (third left), receives a cheque valued $1 million to initiate a housing project for homeless at-risk youth, from Hope Opportunity Charity Limited Board Chairman, Stephen McMorris (third right), during a presentation ceremony at Jamaica House. Others (from left) are Board Member, Hope Opportunity Charity Limited, Ester Clarke; Project Manager at HEART/NSTA Trust/HOPE Programme, Michelle Christie; and Hope Opportunity Charity Limited Board Members, Marcia Edwards and Marclin Williams.
Photo: Donald De La Haye

The Government is partnering with the Don and Ruby Morgan Hope Opportunity Charity Limited on an initiative aimed at assisting with the provision of housing for homeless, at-risk youth living on the nation’s streets.

The charity, based in Jamaica, has provided an initial $1 million to kick-start the undertaking through the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme.

National Coordinator for the HOPE Programme, Colonel Martin Rickman, tells JIS News that several persons have already been identified for homes, and arrangements to facilitate construction are being finalised.

“We are in the process of getting the first one up and running in very short order,” he says.

The organisation, initially named Hope Opportunity Charity Limited, was registered in 2015 by Jamaican academic, Professor Donald Morgan and his wife, Ruby, who reside in Washington DC in the United States.

Its mission is grounded in the principals’ focus on facilitating the upliftment of marginalised at-risk Jamaican youth by providing them with educational/vocational training and entrepreneurial opportunities and support, along with other tangible interventions.

Over the years, the charity has worked with social agencies, churches, business enterprises, institutions, among others to assist young, homeless persons.

Col. Rickman tells JIS News that the housing collaboration represents an expansion of support initially extended by the entity to the Government in 2018, which sees select HOPE participants benefiting from the provision of $75,000 each to assist with educational (skills training) or entrepreneurship activities.

The skills training, in collaboration with HEART/NSTA Trust, covers areas such as carpentry, masonry, plumbing, barbering, roofing, and cosmetology, among others.

Col. Rickman explains that the $75,000 allocation goes towards financing inputs such as training materials for participants and assisting with transportation costs.

He notes that about 35 to 40 young people have been engaged to date.

Col. Rickman says, however, that Professor Morgan was keen on doing more, and following discussions with Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, he decided to contribute a portion of the resources from this charity towards the homeless youth population in Jamaica.

“He wanted to do this as an example for others to follow,” he notes.

Col. Rickman tells JIS News that the objective is not only to provide individuals with shelter “but getting them to a point whereby we also give them training or entrepreneurship support through the HOPE Programme, thereby enabling them to pivot towards attaining self-sustainability”.

He says it is anticipated that the partnership forged with the Don and Ruby Hope Opportunity Charity Limited will be maintained for the “foreseeable future”.

“It is intended that they will continue to support young persons through the training and entrepreneurship engagements [and] also, as we continue to identify those who are in need of somewhere to live.

“So every time we come across these persons, we will endeavour to see how they can become beneficiaries of the programme in those regards,” he adds.

Professor Morgan, for his part, invites and encourages Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora to “contribute to the housing opportunity arm of the Prime Minister’s economic development programme”.

The HOPE Programme, which is the brainchild of Prime Minister Holness, is a training and apprenticeship programme for unattached youth, aged 18 to 24, across Jamaica.

It entails training in values and attitudes, inclusive of work ethics, citizenship, conflict resolution and other key areas such as life and personal development skills.

After training, participants are placed in various industries, in the public and private sectors, as part of the thrust to make them more employable and ready for the Jamaican workforce.

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