Watkis family barely holding on at 83rd Lane


Watkis family barely holding on at 83rd Lane

Councillor seeks help to finish house to replace dilapidated shacks

Monday, October 19, 2020

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SQUEEZED in a section of 83rd Lane on Waltham Park Road in Kingston is a family in dire need.

“I've been living here since 1980,” 54-year-old Fitzroy Watkis, family patriarch, told the Jamaica Observer during an interview last Friday.

Fitzroy is the eldest resident of the family yard which he says is home to eight people, including three teenage boys. His 52-year-old brother Dayton comes to the yard “now and again”. Between them they have sired 18 children, with Dayton accounting for 13, Fitzroy revealed. “I have five children, all of them don't live here,” the 54-year-old said.

A dilapidated wooden structure at the front of the yard is the home of one set of the family members, immediately beside it is a similar shack, and up a narrow passageway leans another wooden structure serving as bedroom to a third family group.

Two-year-old twin boys slept on a bed in the approximately eight-by-eight feet shack at the front of the yard when the Observer visited during the week, as teenagers milled in and out of the cramped yard space. The twins' 24-year-old mother was gone looking for work, leaving them in the care of one of her teenaged cousins.

One 16-year-old has not been attending school because of a lack of resources, and with the novel coronavirus outbreak, implementation of virtual classes and lack of Internet access, the possibilities of further schooling for him is now remote.

Another of the teenagers has the intention of attending the HEART Trust/NSTA to pursue construction and woodwork. “Mi want to change mi life,” he told the Observer.

Both elder Watkis brothers work in the auto industry, Fitzroy doing detailing, while Dayton is a “ducoman”.

“ I have a hand-to-mouth existence,” Fitzroy lamented.

Beverly Prince, councillor for the Cassia Park Division in the St Andrew East Central constituency, where the family lives, said that she has initiated help since 2018 in order to remove them from living on the borderline.

“I started the construction of three block-and-steel rooms, but I I fell ill and couldn't continue fund-raising activities for the project,” she told the Observer. “I now need assistance to complete the building,” Prince added, saying that she hopes to complete it for this Christmas, although COVID-19 has made everything uncertain.

The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation councillor said that in order to complete the living accommodation for the needy family, she estimates that it would require about $2 million.

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