VIDEO: JSIF spends $170 million on zinc fence removal, roadwork in Denham Town

Staff reporter

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has partnered with the security forces in Denham Town, under the enhanced security measures, to socially transform the west Kingston community.

Social development manager at JSIF, Mona Sue-Ho, told the Jamaica Observer that so far, $150 million has gone into major rehabilation work on roads, sewer and water systems in the community. Another $20 million was spent on zinc fence removal.

Sue-Ho said the initiative is geared toward improving the general aesthetics and residents' sense of environmental security.

“So far, we have spent over $100 million for the roadwork and zinc fence removal. Residents from over 10 streets, including Metcalfe Street, Nelson Street, Pink Lane, and Chestnut Lane, have had their zinc fences removed and replaced with block and steel concrete walls. The aesthetic of the community has been improved, and the residents were pretty much involved in erecting their own fences. We had both skilled and unskilled labour from the community involved in the process.

“The residents were absolutely receptive to their zinc fences being removed. In fact, even before the works reach a particular street, they were tearing down their zinc fences because they were so eager not to be left behind. And impact of the removal of these zinc fences on the residents is that has spawned persons having the drive to develop their houses, painting the gate, and the houses.”

Sue-Ho said that project follows the concept of crime prevention through environmental design.

“It's really to look and see how we build or design a community in a way to promote safety. So from a security point of view, the height of the zinc fences do not provide residents with a clear line of vision to see outside from inside. So it's for clear entrance and exit, and also for more effective policing.

“So there are so many different dimensions to the zinc fence removal project. I will use the words of a resident who spoke to me yesterday. She said to me, 'for the first time in a very long time, I am able to sit at my gate and enjoy the cool breeze because I am no longer worried about drive-by'. Her greater sense of safety now allows her to be at her gate enjoying the cool breeze and socialise with her neighbours.”

These were the sentiments of some of the residents who benefited from the project, when the Sunday Observer visited the community during a tour last week.

Roger Stewart, a resident from Wellington Steet in the community, said.

“Mi give them the ok fast and quick because you done know is concrete and we need concrete. Right yah now, a mi gate mi a line up too.”

Another resident said the concrete walls are better for withstanding gunshots. “The concrete 100% better than the zinc because when shot a fire and the kids and people in a them house, the concrete more better,” said the resident.

“The work going with the zinc fence removal is great initiative because some a di yard dem never look so good with di zinc fence dem, and nuff people nuh have di money fi put up a wall, so when di Government can come in and do something like that, we feel good,” said another resident.

Deputy Superintendent of Police, Eron Samuels, told the Sunday Observer that the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) has incorporated the social infrastructure and building projects now happening in the community.

“All of the major projects including the roadwork, the zinc fence removal, as well as housing will be incorporated. The entire Denham Town will be covered and a similar project was done in Tivoli where all the roads were dug up and the drainage and sewage problems were sorted out.

“So the ZOSO gave them [JSIF] an opportunity with the peace and the secured environment to do the roadwork. What we try to do is create a safe space for all of this work to be done. So with the roadwork, we are integral in terms of providing security for the persons working. Also we have a fair understanding of the intricacies with the community, so we can guide them as to where is best to work and what time based on the circumstances,” said Samuels.

Project manager for the Denham Town community development committee, Dellon Gayle, explained that residents, who for years have been plagued by open sewage and drains problems, welcomed the improvements.

“The community will benefit significantly because of the roadwork taking place. There will also be sewer and water connections, so all the yards, for example, on Pink Lane and Chestnut Lane that have been suffering from sewer problem over decades now that will be addressed. They will be putting in separate sewer and water lines connected to every household. So people are very happy about that,” said Gayle.

Meanwhile, Sue-Ho expanded on positive feedback of residents, so far fielded in the media that since ZOSO has brought a general sense of safety to the community.

“I think that normalcy has returned here, you see people going about, socialising, because what crime and violence does, it drives people away from each other and into their respective homes. But now we are seeing more people in the social spaces inside the community.

“The schools in the community are reporting higher attendance rates, the PTA's are seeing more parents in the evenings now because they feel safer, the skills training programme can go on in the evening because persons feel safer to come to the training and return home safely. So I think it is all about seeing people return to their daily lives without the fear of crime and violence.

She further explained that the intervention also includes a menu of social programs that have been implemented at the schools and training centre inside the community.

“We are working closely with the St Alban's Primary School. We are doing a range of academic support programmes, recreational programmes, and summer camps here. The HOPE programme is also here, looking at engaging young persons in skills training and of course, workplace placement.

“We are right in the epicentre of Denham Town. We are working in collaboration with the joint force. We have a tremendously outstanding team of persons. So what you are seeing here is pretty much Government at its best. It's really a number of partners, along with the NGO, the Government agencies, the community, collectively coming together to develop this space.

“So I think it is going very smoothly and the end product will be here as a testimony to the collaboration between the community, JSIF, JCF and the JDF. But I think that we need to realise that the change has to come from within. So we can support the delivery of improved roads, water, better fences, etc, but at the end of the day, peace will come when the residence and ourselves recognise that we have to be the agents of change”, Sue-Ho said.

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