Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Patria-Kay Aarons: Street boy solution

Published:Tuesday | October 27, 2015 | 10:00 AM

The first greeting I got yesterday was from a homeless young man about my age. No good morning, no pleasantry, just "Can I have $100?" It sat very uncomfortably with me for about an hour until I put my finger on why it irked me so much.

I hate a sense of entitlement! Nobody owes you anything! That's a lesson I learnt early in life. Anything that you want, you have to work hard for it. I can say that easily because life has prepared me for work. My mother's sacrifice for my education and my strong will to make something of myself have resulted in two degrees and many employable skills. But not everyone is like me.

Working for an honest bread is taught behaviour. For many with ambition, it is the result of prayers from our grandmothers and talking-to by our parents. And then they did what they could to give us the right foundation.

Not everyone has been blessed with that kind of support. Some have been casualties of the system. Take, for example, the street boys.

 

not afraid of work

 

Street boys are obviously not afraid of work. It's not easy to be out there in the sun every day wiping windscreens for little or nothing. However, oftentimes, that's all that boy knows how to do. Were he given the opportunity to work in a formal system, I think he would take it.

What many lack are employable skills. And I think they can learn. Not all the boys out there are deviant miscreants; some want to learn. And make a decent living for themselves. It is our responsibility to teach them. Unless we nip their situation in the bud, we leave them to walk down a path destined to crime.

Sure, I'm a dreamer, but I dream practical. I have an idea. Take some of David Cameron's money and refurbish and retool an abandoned Crown building and open a car wash and hostel. There, you employ the windshield wipers and offer night school. Give them a regular income, a place to bathe and sleep, a house mother that looks out for them and a way out of poverty and away from crime.

Twenty-five cars a day can easily bring in $1 million a month. If you invest in a mobile car wash, you could double that revenue. You can afford to pay the boys $25K a month and pay the bills. It's more than they would regularly receive. They'd get a roof, a bed and a shower, three meals daily for free and an employable skill.

 

taxpayer burden

 

House 20 boys. The revenue pays the bills and the boys, so it's not another taxpayer burden. Teach the boys a practical skill at nights. I'm assuming the Ministry of Labour has a gap analysis and knows what jobs are needed. (If they don't, that's another conversation to be had.)

Perhaps you teach the boys mechanic work, teach some tailoring, teach some to be barristers. Not only can they learn the skill, but they can run a coffee shop on the premises while people are waiting for their cars and earn more revenue.

Hold half their pay until they finish the programme so in three years they are out of the hostel with money to jump-start independent life and are armed with an in-demand skill to keep them self-sustained.

We have to be driven more by solutions. Jamaica's crime, in many instances, is a direct product of an absence of employability - and jobs. Ministry of Youth, feel free to take the idea and run with it. I stand ready to help with marketing the services free of cost and I have quite a few friends ready to teach classes for free as well.

In crisis mode, this isn't the time for philosophical board reports and everlasting studies that get shelved in fancy offices. Let's do more!