Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
THE ATTRACTIVE landscaping of many yards, a clean environment, and a feeling of tranquillity that prevails on a tour of Angels Grove in St Catherine are obvious signs of collective effort which has been applied to make the community, arguably, one of the best schemes built by the National Housing Trust (NHT).
Melrose Johnson King, president of the Angels Grove Citizens' Association, says the enthusiasm to manage the affairs of the community with rigour did not happen by chance. She explained that a former experience she and other residents had while living in other housing schemes was the driving force behind their unrelenting efforts.
Johnson King told The Gleaner that while she was living in a Portmore community, the lack of interest in the upkeep of many homes led to a general breakdown of the physical and social infrastructure of the area.
"Several of us here came from different communities, and we know that because of an absence of proper governance, those areas are run-down, and so we have decided that we would not want that to happen in Angels Grove," she told The Gleaner.
"We have taken on the challenge to go full speed ahead and keep our community on top," Johnson King said.
Angels Grove was the winner of the NHT Best Schemes competition for 2010-2011.
Johnson King argues that residents in many communities pay little attention to the significant decline in property values owing to a lack of interest in maintaining their properties and the environment.
MATTERS DEALT WITH SWIFTLY
She pointed out that various attempts have been made by some residents to breach the covenant of the scheme, but swift and decisive action by the executive of the association has thwarted such plans.
"We don't wait until it gets out of hand. We just move in immediately and issue a warning that if you don't comply within a certain time, we'll have to go to the National Housing Trust and parish council to get the matter resolved," she said.
"At one point, we had a person operating a grocery shop at the front of their property, where persons were hanging out, so we went to the persons and say that jobs are hard to find, but you can do it this way, by moving it and put it to the back of your premises.
"It's hard to shut them down because it would give rise to another problem, because there is no job, so you have to work with them in order to get the best out of the situation."
While the residents of Angels Grove don't hesitate to remind government agencies about their responsibilities in addressing certain problems in the community, the residents say they don't "sit down and wait for the authorities to come in and do whatever is to be done".
Said Johnson King: "For example, there are two catchment basins in the community that are supposed to be maintained by the parish council on a regular basis, but it has not been done, so what we do as a community is collect money from residents and try to cut them from time to time."
To prevent soil erosion around the catchment basins, the residents plant banana, plantain and other fruit trees, which also supply the community with food.
The residents of Angels Grove have established a number of working committees to help govern different aspects of the community's activities.
On the question of security issues, Johnson King said the Safety and Security Committee works closely with the community relations officer at the Spanish Town Police Station. She said Angels Grove has not seen many incidents of crime.
Committees have also been set up to work in the areas of education, culture, the environment, safety and governance.
The community has established a vibrant homework and cyber centre which students and the elderly are able to benefit from.
Johnson King told The Gleaner that five senior citizens had just completed a 10-week online course where they are now able to surf the Internet and send email, among other things. Another course is to begin in January.
She commended the NHT for making a valuable contribution to the community in the area of training.