Work on house promised to Raheem Powell and family underway

Observer staff reporter

Friday, June 21, 2019

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Seven months after Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie promised 17-year-old Raheem Powell and his family a house for Christmas 2018, work is now underway on the structure.

Yesterday morning when the Jamaica Observer entered Spices Close, Portmore, St Catherine, building material outside the gate was a clear indication that construction was taking place.

Inside the yard, an electrician was in the process of installing an electricity meter at the front of the two-bedroom concrete house.

Last October, the Observer, in a front-page story reported that Raheem, who last attended Gregory Park Primary School, was unable to advance beyond the primary school system because he lacked a birth certificate. This resulted in him not sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test for high school placement.

His mother, 43-year-old Ann-Marie Douglas, told the Observer that Raheem, who has a craving for knowledge, was enrolled at an evening class. However, that did not last long, and his chance to improve his literacy and numeracy skills subsequently went downhill due to financial hardship.

On reading the story headlined 'No birth certificate', Minister McKenzie promised the family that they would be given a house for Christmas.

However, when the Observer visited the family in January 2019, there was no indication that any new construction had started at the property.

The local government ministry, in an e-mailed response to the Observer in January, said that the “special housing intervention for Raheem and his mother and brother is scheduled to begin at the end of this month. The project was originally slated for completion in December 2018, but this unfortunately did not materialise as required procurement processes had not yet been completed”.

When the Observer made further checks in February, the family's living conditions were the same.

At that time, Minister McKenzie told the newspaper that the funds were handed over to the Portmore Municipal Corporation (PCM) to construct the two-bedroom house.

In March, the PMC said it had put out a tender for the construction of the house for Powell and his family, however, there had been no interest expressed by contractors.

Naudia Crosskill, chief executive officer of the municipal corporation, who was unable to say why contractors were not interested in the $3.5-million project, said the council would have to retender.

Yesterday, Project Manager Richard Lewis told the Observer that the house is expected to be completed within six weeks.

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