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Hanover Drop-in Centre transforming lives

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, February 13, 2020

LUCEA, Hanover — Less than a year after Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie opened the Hanover Drop-in Centre in Lucea, which is geared towards rehabilitating and reintegrating homeless residents of the parish through various programmes, the vibrant institution is well on its way to integrating clients back into the society.

“We are trying to get persons back into the working world, so that's one thing that we are looking at, to work with some organisations, supermarkets or whoever willing to take them on to work,” said Brenda Stoddard, administrator of the centre.

Thirty clients, 23 of whom are men, utilise the facility. Most of them suffer from mental illness.

“Most of our clients are mentally ill and they are mistreated, misunderstood... they feel unloved and it sends them deeper into depression. So, when they come here there is a vast transformation,” stated Stoddard.

“They are down, but not forgotten, and they have found somewhere where they are taken care of holistically, and they are loved,” she added, stressing that the centre is a home away from home.

“We offer them two meals per day. We offer them somewhere where they can sleep during the day and shower. There is one client that I shower myself. They are given a change of clothing. Every Monday we groom them, wash their hair, comb their hair and the men are trimmed and put together,” Stoddard shared.

Additionally, clients are assisted with financial help to purchase medication, while those who are not literate are instructed how to administer their medicine. There is also a doctor who visits the centre and provides services once per month.

Devotions are also held at the centre, while clients are sent to church on Sundays. Apart from Christmas parties, quarterly birthday parties are also held for the clients.

“So, every quarter we have a birthday party, and for those who don't know their birthday, we give them one, and we invite persons from all over. We have companies from within the area that donate cakes, ice-cream and so forth. They are given a table of honour, champagne, serenaded, the whole works,” explained Stoddard.

Clients are also taught to sew pillows and cushions and make jewellery, which are then sold to the public. Profits from the sales are given to the clients to assist them with purchasing personal hygiene items. But, even though the centre provides these items, Stoddard said the aim is to equip them with a sense of independence.

Additionally, the centre operates a farm, which is managed by the senior security guard, Hartley Malcolm. The farming programme provides the centre with produce such as bananas, pumpkins, plantains, tomatoes, corn, okra, sweet potatoes, pepper, peas, and sorrel. There is also a chicken-rearing programme as the farm is used to sustain the daily operations of the centre, while providing items for sale to the public during the Yuletide season.

Malcolm said on the inception of the drop-in centre, the staff was encouraged to make the facility self-sufficient.

“So, I went along with the idea of eating what you grow and grow what you eat, and so far we have done pretty well,” stated Malcolm, who disclosed that there are plans to grow additional crops.

Rodcliffe Campbell, a client at the centre, recently renewed his driver's licence and stressed that he wants to get back into the world of work.

Stoddard said Campbell is a disciplinarian and a 'big brother' to other clients.

He now sews cushions and pillows twice per week at the centre and is happy about the response from customers.

“They say the work is number one. The pillows are comfortable,” he stressed.

Another client, Franklyn Thorpe, a former Jamaica Public Service contract worker, construction worker, and fisherman, who is recognised for his strong faith in God, is referred to as the counsellor. Thorpe, who is schizophrenic, is said to be very generous.

Thorpe said he wants to get back into the construction industry in an effort to make a worthwhile contribution to society. As a result, he is encouraging people who want to utilise his skills to get in touch with the administrator for the centre.

“I believe, or it is my opinion, that the centre has played a major role in their lives to get them back on their two feet,” an enthused Stoddard said, stressing that she enjoys working with the clients.

The centre was constructed at a cost of $14 million.