I need a better home

10-y-o runaway went in search of more suitable housing for family

Observer staff reporter

Friday, October 19, 2018

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A 10-year-old girl, frustrated with her living conditions at her family home on New Lincoln Avenue in St Andrew, ran away last weekend in search of better accommodation.

Now safely back home, she says she is sorry for all the pain that she had caused her parents.

The child, who is the fourth of six children for Damian Barnes and Trudy Thompson, told the Jamaica Observer that she ran away from home because of the environment in which she has been living.

“The environment that I live in, I don't find it suitable for me, so I decided to go,” she said as she stood beside her parents on New Lincoln Avenue Tuesday.

“I want somewhere better to stay. I went out there in search of somewhere for my parents and I didn't find anywhere, and I started to rest and two girls came and they took me to their home,” she explained.

The 10-year-old's home is inside a heavily trafficked tenement yard.

“It seems like every day a new visitor visits,” she said.

When she left her Kingston 5 home last Saturday evening, she told the Observer that she walked to Half-Way-Tree, Cross Roads and Kencot before two teenagers saw her and took her to their home. They took her to the police station the next day.

Barnes and Thompson said they are grateful that she was found and taken to a police station.

“Mi glad the system work, but what worked more is that good people are still around. 'Cause a two little girl find her and take her off the road. If dem never take her off the road, wi nuh know what woulda happen,” the child's father told the Observer on Tuesday.

Last Saturday, the constabulary's Corporate Communications Unit activated a high alert for 10-year-old Rukiya Barnes was reported missing from her home.

Reports from the Cross Roads police were that the child was last seen about 7:00 pm, dressed in a white merino, red and white skirt, and a pair of red slippers.

Hours before she went missing the 10-year-old had been scolded by her mother for removing money from one of the houses in their yard.

When the Observer caught up with Thompson on Tuesday, she said that after she scolded her daughter she instructed her to bathe her brothers, ages three and four, and herself.

Thompson said that when she saw the wash pan by the standpipe and no sign of her daughter, she realised something was wrong and started making checks.

She said she later filed a missing person report as dusk was falling rapidly.

Barnes recounted that on Sunday, while the police were escorting him and Thompson to the Cross Roads Police Station, the silence inside the motor vehicle was deafening as he contemplated the possibility of not seeing his only daughter again. However, he said he knew then that the police must have found something or someone.

Admitting that he was angered by the child's action, Barnes said when he saw his daughter at the police station he knew he had to find the teenagers who found her and thank them.

“We had to go there,” he said, referring to the teenagers' home on Collins Green Avenue in Kingston.

The couple initially said their daughter didn't need anything; however, they later admitted that they, too, want to leave their community.

“We have one room; we supposedly have a next one round there so, but... that have little more space where the children dem sleep more time. But most of the time, one or two of the children dem sleep with us on our bed. Right now we have one and a half bed,” Barnes said.

He further explained that their eldest child, who is 19 years old, resides elsewhere, while their 15-year-old son and Rukiya stay with their maternal and paternal grandmothers, respectively.

“The yard is a tenement yard. All kinds of man come in there because they have their friends in there; you don't know who is who,” Thompson said.

When the Observer asked Barnes if he understands his daughter's frustration, he said: “Of course, 'cause wi a feel it more than her. Her mother remarks about her was that 'She more serious than her,' because her mother wah run weh long time. All a wi wah run weh long time and she just take up herself and run. She more serious than we.”

According to the father of six, he has been taking small steps to execute his exit plan, however, he said it has been difficult.

“For couple years now I have been trying to save the deposit to either get one of the house dem or a piece of land. For one, they (National Housing Trust (NHT)) are not building any house that I can afford. I can't afford the $10-million house; that is not in my plan.

“Mi inna construction, and mi woulda like piece a land and build on it, but these developers are scraping up everything. I even try get an old yard and dem a scrape those too, so mi nuh know where to turn,” he continued.

“A nuh say wi nah look, wi a look. Mi even look place to rent, but nobody nah rent you dem place with six pickney,” Barnes said, adding that he works with a company that deducts NHT contribution from his pay cheque.

Meanwhile, Thompson, 34, said she believes her daughter needs counselling. She said, too, that she is also willing to get counselling in order to be a better parent.

When the Observer asked why the couple decided to have six children, Barnes said: “We never decide [on] six.”

“Is like wi never did a check,” Thompson added.

“We had four and was managing with that, and then two just come quick, quick,” Barnes said.

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