A Motion calling on the Government to undertake a structured programme of improvement to the indigent housing stock, using skilled and unskilled workers under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), was approved by the Senate, on June 8.
Opposition Senator, Robert Montague, who moved the Motion, noted that the registered poor or indigent was the “poorest of the poor in the country."
“The destitute, that sector of society that is sometimes forgotten, that sector that sponsors and advertisers have no use for, as they have no purchasing power, they are unable to help themselves,” he said.
There are currently 11,546 registered poor persons in Jamaica. Their names appear on the Paupers roll and are kept by the Inspector of the Poor at each Parish Council.
Of the 11,546 registered poor, 5,392 are males and 6,154 are females. There are also 996 homeless persons.
Currently, there are 1,756 housing units for the indigent in varying stages of disrepair, and of that amount $178 million was spent to repair 706 of those units.
The Opposition Senator noted that the country needs approximately 1,050 more units to adequately provide for the nation’s indigents.
“I am making an appeal that a part of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), coupled with the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) be combined to deal with this problem. Construction clinics can be set up in communities and persons from JEEP trained and be certified by HEART Trust/ NTA, and they could effect repairs to these houses,” Mr. Montague said.
For his part, Government Senator, Wensworth Skeffery, noted that the capacity of the Parish Councils to respond to the needs of the indigent in an effective way, is almost negligent.
“Sometimes they become frustrated in dealing with the issues as it confronts them,” Senator Skeffery said.
He added that it was time to implement local government reform measures and to give the Councils more autonomy in terms of deciding their own budget and “to go out there and actively seek funds to address these issues."
In his comments, Government Senator, Floyd Morris, said that if housing solutions could be provided for some of the indigents, they would not have to be placed in government institutions.
“I believe that as we go forward to implement this motion, I am making a special appeal and giving support to this motion, to make sure that we get the requisite housing stock, so that these individuals can be placed in homes that they will be able to live a dignified life,” Senator Morris said.
Opposition Senator, Kavan Gayle, noted that the motion put forward was a very critical one, “especially where social development and social protection and addressing the needs of the vulnerable must be a priority of any administration."
Meanwhile, Senator Montague stated that the cost of replacing the 1,050 housing units is approximately $435 million.
Following is the text of the Motion:
WHEREAS the Parish Councils and the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation maintain a list of indigent persons in each parish;
AND WHEREAS the Parish Councils and the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, through the Poor Relief Department and the Board of Supervision, are mandated to inspect each indigent person and his living conditions every two years;
AND WHEREAS, by an initiative of the Department of Local Government, in 2008/2009 an Indigent Housing Fund was launched, in association with the Churches, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the private sector, to raise funds to seek to improve the living conditions of indigent persons across Jamaica:
BE IT RESOLVED that the Senate recommend to the Government to undertake a structured programme of improvement to the indigent housing stock using skilled and unskilled workers under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP); and
BE IT RESOLVED that the workers so utilised be certified by the HEART/NTA through the on-the-job assessment programme.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter