Southside job bank - JP to establish list with skills of unattached youths
The explosion of work made available through construction of the new GraceKennedy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs buildings on the waterfront in downtown Kingston has put the brakes on crime in 'Southside', central Kingston.
But strong fears abound that once construction is completed, the young men who are heavily invested in its construction as labourers could return to a life of crime and violence.
That is the view of Patricia Durant-Young, a justice of the peace and store owner, at a recent Gleaner/RISE Life Management on the Corner with Unattached Youths forum last Thursday.
"An association of labour workers, in a job bank, where it is operated in a way that will guarantee permanent attachment and job opportunity is what I am talking about. These young men have now tasted what it feels like working for honest bread and are on course to changing their lives totally because of these two worksites," she said.
"The more work they have is the less crime there will be, because all they actually want is a means to get themselves out of poverty and violence. And these two sites have provided that opportunity for them. But the question is, what next?" Durant-Young asked.
She said that young men in Southside, while grateful for the ongoing work, know that it's drawing nigh to completion for both sites, and are already pondering their next move.
Part of the plan, according Durant-Young, is the employment factor.
"There is no doubt that we have less crime now because the young men are busy working; sometimes I even wonder out loud if this is the same Southside that some people still have off as being among the most violent. It is an amazing scene witnessing on a day-to-day basis young men heading off to work in the mornings," she said.
"I am praying that some project can be implemented to keep them employed. Because if we fail, we could be sending them back into harm's way," Durant-Young noted.
Her views were shared by community member Mark James, who told The Gleaner that all that is required is a consistent flow of jobs to keep their minds busy.
"Devil finds work for idle hands, you know. I am sure of that. Many of the youths you see working now already know how to use a gun, you know. But they are now hell bent on turning their lives around because dem see that crime nuh really pay," James said.
"Dem love to see a pay check and to go to the bank. Dem feel big. And that is how we can reach many of them. So, yes, I am all for any association that keeps our youths together and the idea for a kind of job bank suits the bill perfectly," he said.