For a second time in recent years the independent break away Baptist church group/7 man committee LGBT allies have delivered even when they were not formerly obligated so to do outside of a promise. Sunday December 11, 2016 was the day on which a spirited penny concert and church fundraiser rally was held in St Catherine to include sing-offs, comedy hour, bake sale, yard sale, a short play and other activities with nuff food to go around for all. $25,000 was delivered on the very evening of the rally as it came to an end and the tally was done, a break away from tradition, apparently the goal that was set was surpassed and as before the basic figure of $15,000 would have flowed even if their bigger goal was not met. Other gifts as in last year were not there this time around but the upcoming Christmas dinner being planned may have other goodies we hope. We are thankful none the less.
The promise of sorts of assistance from the allies since around 2013 has been met several times prior with specific regards to the previously named ‘MSM Weed Whacking Project’ which has now morphed into a mixed group income generating one as two women are now full time on the now nine person group with two other pass through members; they latter two have other income generating activity they have done for themselves in vending. The original idea came about in 2012 after five of the current male members and others who have since moved on were homeless and struggling in Spanish Town and the outskirts of Portmore, after several challenges including two evictions from an illegally occupied house and land a head scratching exercise occurred hence the idea came to hand. Fundraising efforts elsewhere have been not so hot this year as the response to overtures have been low, austerity I guess, formalization of the outfit and activities was and still is the next step but with registration as a limited liability company for starters comes the mandatory minimum business tax obligation of $60,000 while NGO status may be pending for some time.
After some time with much trial and error with some head bumping resulting in resignations from the committee and sadly some misguided homophobia from selected church members seeped in old thinking and reshaping the interfaith feel of the effort we are still here. The participants in the project have been struggling with everything from in fighting to sporadic rainfall, effectively drought periods, reduction in business and client withdrawal as a few households consolidate in austerity times other persons have moved to newer schemes but the men do travel to get the business. Mechanical challenges with the equipment as only three of the five machines are in working order and the rotation of the machines to meet demand though problematic at first things got settled afterwards. The women came into play as beneficiaries from their own challenges thus changing the face of MSM/transgender homelessness overall in that part of town and as displaced same gender loving women become more visible ways have to be found to meet some of the changing landscape.
The regular competition from other whackers some with burrowed or local government owned machines who invade the market is still a challenge. They undercut prices in order to attract customers even as a few customers purchase their own machines in the case of falling prices for them and do they own landscaping thus eliminating the costs for hiring someone. Social media use was suggested to grow the business but the guys are hesitant even though it was made clear to them the marketing would be to LGBT specific audiences for starters, but if they are not ready I suggested we do not force it just yet as there has to be buy in for it to work.
Clarendon replication attempt
The activation of the idea to replicate the projects in nearby Clarendon has not taken off as expected, given the limited machines for rotation, some issues had come up some time ago with homelessness or displacement in that parish and I suggested we try and see, rotating machines for such long distances with new players may be logistically challenging. We want to target another three men for that expansion even as they engaged in ‘hustling’ to eke out a living. Rapid residential development in that part of the island is making the concept more attractive as housing developments go up. As more middle class persons move westwards from Kingston and Portmore they will need some sort of landscaping services and the evidence is clear thus far, men riding on bicycles or bikes with whacking machines, machetes and so on are visible in May Pen and nearby communities as they seek business in a competitive environment.
The committee has promised continued support albeit there are attempts to ‘convert’ participants to the faith by some but I have concerns about a reparative or restorative tinge attached to such efforts, but let us see. The concept of a gay Christian is alien to some persons thus far but with time I am expecting change.
A huge thanks to the group for the donations on behalf of the participants and as usual the funds will be managed by the designated individuals, of note last year’s donations mostly went into gasoline purchases, emergency repairs, stipends for low income periods and other unexpected expenses that were health related. The rented house where the group resides is still used by them as they slowly build on their efforts.
Peace & tolerance
Christmas nyamings, donation presentation & MSM weed-whacker project update
INTERFAITH GROUP PLEDGES CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR ST CATHERINE HOMELESS MSM
Homeless MSM populations treated over the Christmas season 2013
BUSINESS DOWNTURN FOR THE WEED-WHACKING PROJECT FOR FORMER DISPLACED ST CATHERINE MSM 2014