ANNOTTO BAY, St Mary (JIS) — Twenty-two families in Crooked River, St Mary, who were displaced following the passage of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, have been provided with new homes by the Government.
Family members were presented with keys to the 22 new houses as well as letters of possession for the units, during a ceremony at Annotto Bay High School in St Mary on August 23.
The 300-square-foot, two-bedroom houses were provided through a partnership initiative involving Food For the Poor (FFP), which targeted persons in the parish deemed worst affected by the hurricane.
Minister with responsibility for housing Dr Morais Guy, who spoke at the ceremony, said the units have been presented as "grants" to the beneficiaries.
The dwellings, he outlined, also comprise a living room, kitchen, and bathroom, a solar panel to provide power, a water tank, a sewage disposal treatment system, and a lot that allows for future expansion.
The occupants have also been provided with the first full tank of water courtesy of the ministry's Rapid Response Unit.
Dr Guy explained that while the lots will be subject to lease arrangements "over a time, and after that, you will have the option to purchase [them]."
He advised that allocation of the houses is in addition to grants awarded to the beneficiaries to repair the houses they previously occupied.
Dr Guy said the presentation of the houses represented a "major milestone" and prospects
for a brighter and more prosperous future for the recipients.
"We are cognisant that lives can be transformed through initiatives such as this one; and it is for that reason, among others, that we did not hesitate to get the project off the ground," he said.
He pointed out that through the co-ordinated efforts of the ministries of transport, works and housing, and labour and social security; and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the Government responded quickly to the plight of several residents who were seriously affected by the hurricane. He
pointed out that the homes of 2,800 persons sustained major damage, while 500 were destroyed.
Dr Guy said consequent to this, the Government took the decision to alter the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), which has as one of its targets the construction of 1,800 wooden houses annually, to replace the homes of victims.
"With the temporary adjustment, as of July 31, almost 430 units have been built for Hurricane Sandy victims across the parishes of St Mary, Portland, and St Thomas, the parishes most ravaged by this disaster," he said.
Dr Guy said further that most of the houses have been built on lands owned by beneficiaries or their families.
In the case of Crooked River, Guy advised that in addition to the 22 units already completed, construction of another three is currently under way, with an additional 12 slated for that location.
In addition, 12 are earmarked for Eden Park, Oracabessa, also in St Mary. He also advised that four units have been constructed in Darlingford in Manchioneal, Portland.
Responding on behalf of the beneficiaries in Crooked River, Leroy Grossett, expressed gratitude to the Government, Food For the Poor, and other participating stakeholders for their quick response to the residents' plight.
State minister in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Luther Buchanan, said that in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Government established the Recovery East Jamaica Reconstruction Task Force to facilitate co-ordination of the recovery efforts of minsitries, departments, and agencies targeting St Mary, Portland, and St Thomas.
That body, he added, was supported by a secretariat comprising representatives of ODPEM and OPM.
Buchanan said the Sandy recovery project also targeted implementation of a national recovery plan aimed at improving Jamaica's future recovery efforts. He pointed out that the hurricane's passage has
re-enforced the need for a more comprehensive and strategic policy for housing and land use.
"In fact, as it pertains to disaster risk reduction, and the no-build zone legislation, the most honourable prime minister is serious about the implementation of same to improve the protection of our citizens and to reduce the negatives that continue to hamper sustainable development," he said.
Other participants in the day's proceedings included: JEEP Programme Director Lucille Brodber; executive director FFP, Jacqueline Johnson; acting director general, ODPEM, Richard Thompson; and member of parliament for St Mary South Eastern, where Crooked River is located, Dr Winston Green.