A temporary home for young men fresh out of state-run juvenile institutions has opened at 8 Federal Road in Grants Pen, St Andrew.
McPherson House, was established as a half-way house, in partnership with Food For the Poor (FFP), benefactor, Verona McPherson — after whom the building was named — and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.) Kingston chapter.
Food for the Poor provided building material and constructed the house on premises donated by Ms McPherson. Local service clubs were recruited to assist with ongoing expenses and start-up costs such as furniture.
"We (the UNIA) built the foundation, we tiled the floor and put in the furniture," U.N.I.A. president, Steven Golding said adding that the intention is to use the philosophies of national hero Marcus Garvey to empower young men who stay there.
"The concept is to continue Garvey's school of African philosophy. So this home provides the training ground for young men. Granted, we are looking for young adult men. They have to be over 18, coming out of state institutions," explained Golding at the launch ceremony last week.
The project offers transitional housing for young men from state-run rehab facilities who, at age 18, have to leave state care, providing quasi-independent living in a supervised environment for three to nine-months. Their time there will be spent equipping themselves with the tools for survival.
"They learn Garveyism. And then we help place them in different jobs, or to pursue what it is that they want to do," Golding told the Observer. "The training programme is for three months, then we allow three months for job placement, then possibly an additional three months, depending on the type of job they would have gotten, which would allow them to save money and then find their own place.
"We hope to expand it (the programme) in the future, for as you know, we are teaching in the prisons and we are doing other things. So, when we say state-institutions, we are not necessarily limiting it to children's homes. But for right now, that's where we are starting," explained Golding.
Speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, senior director of recipient services for Food For the Poor, Deacon Ron Burgess saidthe launch was a celebration of a partnership "that has lifted and will lift several young boys after they leave state-run children's homes islandwide."
The project, which was completed at a cost of approximately J$800,000, is currently home to one individual, . However, it was built to comfortably house two to four persons at any one time.
Reid, who is from Arnett Gardens in Kingston, assists with tutoring sessions in the Marcus Garvey Study Programme held every Friday at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, where he has reportedly become an inspiration to the inmates. He also works with the National Youth Service (NYS) assisting teachers with academic classes for primary level students, ages six to twelve.
The previously lived at the Alpha Boys Home. He and his brother, Renardo Reid, became wards of the State following the death of their father and their abandonment by their mother years prior.
"At just the right time, Food For The Poor and the UNIA came to my rescue," said Reid. "I had nowhere else to go and I had no family to turn to. This facility is very convenient and well needed. I am overjoyed because I know that when the time comes for my brother and other persons to leave child care institutions, they too will have access to proper shelter."
The 80-year old woman whose name is on the building is a UNIA member who has been a foster parent for years. Now in her mid-80s, she no longer involved with parenting, but donated her property to help needy young men like Reid.
"I was a foster mother for years so I know that boys are having difficulties. I took one (the first boy she fostered) when he was four and he is 40-odd now," she said, adding that her last foster child is now 21-years-old.