USAID Launches Transitional Housing Facility for Wards of the State

Historical Ground broken for an independent living apartment complex for girls leaving state care.

For Immediate Release

Friday, January 15, 2016

Kingston, Jamaica: The Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, ON, MP and Mr. Luis G. Moreno, US Ambassador to Jamaica, officially turned the first dirt over to break ground at a special ceremony to commemorate the beginning of construction for an independent living apartment complex for young women leaving State care. This complex is being constructed at 24 Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston  as a part of a multi-agency ‘Transitional Living Programme for Children in State Care’ project in Jamaica.

The first of its kind in Jamaica, the project involves a multi-dimensional approach to preparing wards of the State to transition into independent living. The project, which supports citizen safety and security, is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Jamaica. It is being implemented through the collaborative efforts of the Caribbean Child Development Centre, The University of the West Indies Open Campus, the Child Development Agency, the Social Welfare Training Centre and the UWI Project Management Office.

The project aims to support the creation of a safe neighbourhood space and provide services to improve preparation for the transition to independent living for young people who are required to leave state care at 18 years of age by law. Through the development of an exit-readiness programme consisting of life skills coaching, job skills training and mentorship, this transitional programme will provide these children with basic yet essential skills for functioning well in society. The project will also secure public-private partnerships to provide employment opportunities for these youth.

According to U.S. Ambassador, to Jamaica, Luis G. Moreno, states that this project is extremely timely and ties in with the U.S. Government’s broader goals, “Under the broader U.S. Government mandate to enhance security and law enforcement cooperation, USAID’s commitment to citizen safety and security goes back to 2001.  We invest in inner city communities to focus on creating safe environments to generate economic opportunities for all Jamaicans.”

The fully furnished apartment complex will house 40 young ladies who are pursuing tertiary education, vocational training or are gainfully employed; and who without this support are at the risk of homelessness.   A mentoring programme will  be implemented to support the personal and career development of the young ladies.  Construction of the complex is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Speaking of the proposed independent living apartment complex, the Hon. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture opined, “We must give our young people and young women the opportunity to experience really what it feels like to step up in life and to step up for progress. The Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, ON, MP also announced the development of a similar apartment complex for boys in St. Elizabeth, which will be built with further support from USAID.  She stressed the importance of intervening with boys and emphasized that “While we  speak a lot about the girls, I am also conscious of the importance of the same attention to our boys.”;

A special moment at the ceremony came with the announcement by Dr. Luz Longsworth, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal (Ag.) of The University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus, of  45 scholarships to be offered by the campus during the first year of the project. These scholarships will enable the youngsters transitioning out of State care to pursue Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) classes and certificate courses. She noted that the initiative’s objective is to equip the beneficiaries to gain employment, while providing them with mentoring and life-skills training.

Mrs. Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of the Child Development Agency and Ms. Denise A. Herbol, Mission Director USAID/Jamaica, were also in attendance. Professor Julie Meeks,  Principal Investigator for the project and Deputy Principal of The UWI Open Campus, chaired the proceedings of the event.