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Statistics have shown that in 2002 there was 16% of the Jamaican population living below the poverty line (RJR News cast). Additionally, because of restructuring of the economy and downsizing of the private sector many breadwinners have lost their jobs. This state of affairs has led to a growing number of children on the streets fending for themselves. Unemployment and poverty have led to persons reneging from their parental responsibilities of providing adequate food, shelter, clothing and supervision for their children.
As a consequence of the harsh economic situation and the deteriorating social conditions, more and more children in urban centres such as Halfway Tree, have decided to congregate at the traffic lights where they can beg or earn money by wiping the windscreens of motor vehicles. Over the last twenty years this untenable phenomenon has developed. At almost every traffic light or major intersection e. g. the junctions of Trafalgar Road and Hope Road, Oxford Street and Old Hope Road, and Maxfield Avenue and Hagley Park Road, boys gather from as early as 6:00 a.
m. to solicit alms from generous motorists. This development thought profitable for the boys, often caused other social problems for Jamaica. For example, many of the street boys become a nuisance as they harass motorists. Sometimes the boys would steal from motorists or even abused those who refused to give them money. Many of the boys actually live on the streets where it is reported that they become involved in pushing and taking illegal drugs.
It has been reported that some are molested by homosexuals and often they are beaten up. The most unfortunate situation which has befallen the street boys is the lack of education. Very few if any of these boys who beg at the nation’s traffic lights can ever hope to become useful and productive adults without formal education and training. It is out of this need for strong guidance and help that the St. Andrew Parish Church established the Care Centre. Review of Literature
The problem of street children has been a perpetual one that shows no signs of abatement. There have been several attempts by governments and NGO’s to find ways of eliminating the problem. One needs to look at what created this phenomenon in the first place before one can determine how to solve it. It is therefore necessary to define the term street children. According to Christina Blank, in Urban Children in Distress, the term may be broadly defined as children who earn money, by legal and illegal activities on urban streets (174).
She goes on to state that “real” street children are the roofless and rootless who live alone or with other children like themselves on the streets (324). Because these children are mobile it is extremely difficult to ascertain their numbers. It has been found that the response of those in a position to help the powerless in society, for street children may be seen as powerless, has been ad hoc or insufficient. Blank sets out various strategies and government policies that may be implemented to deal with the increasing problem of children living on the streets.