A sharp reduction in financial assistance has left St Patrick's Foundation — the non-profit human and community development organisation established in 1994 by the late Monsignor Richard Albert — struggling to stay afloat. And now 18 elderly Jamaicans, who receive care at the charity's St Monica's Home for the Abandoned and Elderly face the risk of losing that benefit in the next 10 months if the organisation's appeal for help yields no fruit.
In addition to St Monica's located at White Marl, St Catherine, the foundation — which was designed to provide skills, opportunities and care to at-risk youth and residents of low-income communities — runs Riverton Early Childhood Centre, St Margaret's Human Resource Centre, and Christ The Redeemer Human Resource Centre (CTR) in Kingston.
But the decline in financial aid, which "reduced to a trickle" after Albert's passing in November 2015, and worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic, has forced the foundation to cut down its operations and temporarily close CTR in January this year.
When the Jamaica Observer visited St Monica's Home on Thursday, elderly residents were either relaxing on the verandah, watching television, or resting, seemingly signalling that they were comfortable at the facility.
But when asked how they would cope if the home was forced to close, they admitted that there would be much uncertainty as many of them do not have anywhere else to live.
"I don't know how I would manage. Anything you can offer, please give it," said one elderly woman, Claire Henry.
Another, Lilian Henry, who has been at the home for less than a year, said, "It would be sad to know some people would not have anywhere to go."
Sixty-four-year-old Everton Ranger, who has been at the home for 15 months, said he would be disappointed as he really appreciates the treatment from the caregivers.
"That would be very bad. The caretakers really treat us well. We want a bit more funding but they are fighting with what they have," he said.
"My relatives offer assistance from time to time, but some people don't have any relatives and depend on the home for everything, so it would be difficult," added Ranger.
In a woeful tone, 66-year-old Joseph Peart, who has been at the home for about a year, said, "I don't know what would be the outcome."
A 72-year-old man, who gave his name only as Johnson, expressed a similar concern. "I have been here for one year and five months. I don't know how I would manage, to tell you the truth. Sometimes you would think we would be able to manage on our own but we cannot."
One of 15 caregivers, Cheryll Thomas, expressed further worry.
"We mostly get donations, that is how we get financial funding for this home, and the donation helps to pay us. We don't get that much support again so we can't afford to take on persons like we usually do," she said.
"It would be rough on us if the home shut down because we would have to find something else to do, and the elders would have to find somewhere else to go," she added.
The foundation's chair, Hermine Metcalfe, told the Observer that with operations for all four facilities costing approximately $5 million per month, the tough decision was made to close one of the centres.
"Right at this moment we are experiencing really serious financial issues because our operations are funded by private donations mostly. A lot of donations are from overseas and we have some corporations locally that donate to us and they are faithful," Metcalfe said. "But our expenses are very high, and the inflows have decreased significantly. Since COVID it [donations] went down almost to zero. We had to close one of the centres and we selected CTR because we didn't have that many students at the time, and we scaled down operations in the head office, so we only have one employee. So it is a critical situation."
Metcalfe explained that shutting down the home, which racks up approximately $1.8 million in expenses per month, cannot be an alternative, as the elderly are without other housing options.
"We have to think of them. What do we do with these people? You don't want to close down or scale down there. That is not an option. Right now it is our immediate need. If we could get an entity to take over the day-to-day running and we support with fund-raising, that would be good," Metcalfe said, adding that the other facilities have better support.
"St Monica's is a major money user because the residents don't pay. We provide clothes for them, feed them, look after their medical needs, and at the end of their lives we ensure they get a dignified burial," she added.