Seven-room home for seven shillings a week
Acourageous attempt to show a way out of the poverty and bad housing conditions of the people of Jamaica is being made by American Jesuits, backed by a group of Catholics in Boston.
It is those same conditions which are driving an increasing number of Jamaicans to come and start a new life in Britain.
To the Londoner watching parties of West Indians arrive under the drab skies of the capital and remembering the colour and sunshine they have left behind, they may seem a little pathetic.
They appear still more so as they settle down in appallingly overcrowded houses in British slums.
But for Them. and the others waiting to come, there appears to be hope here. in contrast to the hopelessness of an island where unemployment is rife and housing conditions are such that the worst of British slums seem attractive by comparison.
Into that atmosphere of hopelessness, first Fr. Raymond Sullivan and now Fr. Harry Ball, both of the Society of Jesus, have tried to inject a little hope with a scheme which so far provides just over 100 people with better housing. a chance to supplement their incomes and a sense of personal ownership.
Reporting the work of these Jesuits, the Denver Catholic Register says that outside Kingston. the island's only city, the average home of the poor is a one-room windowless shack, with a dirt floor, walls of cane and mud. and a thatched roof.
In this one room, which is by no means large, live from one to three families.
It was against this background of shockingly low housing standards that Fr. Sullivan eight years ago began his work. He be'ieved that with a little money he could point a way to something better.
So he enlisted the aid of his brother Harold, another Jesuit, in Boston, who got a local Catholic society on to the job of raising funds and obtaining building materials which could not be got in Jamaica.
Within two years. Holy Name Homestead had , reached a point where the first families began moving in.
Fr. Sullivan had managed to buy at a moderate price 100 acres of land, which he parcelled up into one-acre plots.
On each of 22 of these today stands a seven-room cement-block house with running water and plumbing. electricity, floors and windows. Only one famils is allowed to live in each house.
The houses arc let at seven shillings a week but if the family wishes they may buy the property for the same weekly sum. the place becoming their own in 20 years.
The seven shillings includes taxes on the land. insurance and similar items. No interest is charged on the money lent The seven shillings, too. covers a share of the cost of equipment bought for the construction. Timber is cut on the land and the cement blocks are made on the Site with a machine imported from the U.S.A.
50 per cent. MSS
There is a loss of 50 per cent. on each house. which is made up by the Holy Name Associates in Boston.
Everyone on the island who can do so supplements his low wages by cultivating a bit at land or doing some fishing. The families settled on Holy Name Homestead have recently been permitted to acquire an additional four acres each from their Jesuit landlord at a rental which covers little more than taxes.
Each tenant has now planted his plot with both long and short term crops. The long term ones are, of course. inevitably bananas. When, in two years or so, they start to provide a money-earning crop, the tendency will be to switch over entirely to bananas.
Of the 100 or so persons so far residing on the Homestead. 75 are Catholics, about 20 of whom are converts made since coming to live on the project.