'We want houses too'
Former Hampden Estate sugar workers appeal for First Step Homes benefit
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Wakefield Division Jonathan Bartley is appealing for redundant sugar workers who once lived on barracks at Hampden Estates in Trelawny before it was divested by Government, to receive benefit under the First Step Homes programme.
According to Bartley, the sugar workers who once lived on four sugar barracks operated by the Hampden Estate before the closure of the factory in 2003, were not among the recent beneficiaries of housing solutions under the First Step Homes programme, in Hampden Heights, Trelawny.
"They worked nowhere else but Hampden, and just as the programme (Sugar Transformation Unit) came in place, the estate closed down. So they were run off the property," said Bartley, a former Mayor of Falmouth.
" When the programme came in place and STU went there to look who were living at the barracks just four persons were left, most of them had all gone," added the councillor.
"My concern is that Hampden Estate had three other properties, Tilson, Glaze Valley and Phoenix, along with Hampden. All these places had barracks and a lot of workers were living there."
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, last month, handed out 66 keys to the first set of completed houses at Hampden Heights, under the First Step Homes initiative.
Sixty-eight-year-old Leroy Brown, who lived on one of the barracks on the vast Hampden Estate for decades, believes it is unjust that he was not among those considered to benefit under the First Step Homes programme, in Hampden Heights, after toiling in the sugar industry for 26 unbroken years.
"It is unfair that the other people get and me don't get, because I have 26 years of service and people who do less than me, get," Brown complained.
He now lives in a ramshackle house in Dromilly, Trelawny.
" After I was made redundant in 2003, them carry me to Bernard Lodge (Sugar Estate) and me return after three years. I worked as a cane cutter on the Hampden Estate for 23 years before it was closed and three at Bernard Lodge, making it 26 years," he explained.
Emmanuel Kerr, another sugar worker, who claimed to have worked for 11 years at Hampden Estate, told the Jamaica Observer West that he too is disappointed at not being a recipient of one of the First Step housing solutions in Hampden Heights.
The houses, facilitated by Sugar Workers Housing Programme and the Jamaica Tourist Board, were constructed through the collaborative efforts of the National Housing Trust (NHT) and Food for the Poor.
Workers in the island's tourism industry are also said to benefitting under the initiative.
So far, approximately $204 million has been spent on the project, which aims to deliver 600 housing solutions each year.