Residents of the half-way house are drawn almost exclusively
from the St. Ann 's Mental Hospital. For admittance to
the half-way house facility, prospective residents must
fulfill the admission criteria.
They must possess sufficient
intelligence to allow for training in basic skills, should
be able to function with minimal supervision, prospective
residents must be symptom free and not be currently homicidal,
suicidal or drug or alcohol addicted and lastly should
be between the ages of 21 to 50 years.
The facility is
under the care of a management committee, appointed
by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and is staffed by
a manager and three assistants. As the centre seeks to
provide continual day and evening programmes to prepare
residents for independent living, programmes place emphasis
on the following: Enhancing coping skills, compliance
with treatment plans and making participants employable.
There are five different types of programmes or therapies
- Medical Programme - This
involves compulsory attendance of the out-patient clinic
at St. Ann 's Hospital, visits by the mental health
officer and drug therapy to control medical symptoms.
- Group sessions - which involve
substance abuse groups, therapeutic groups, diagnostic
and treatment groups.
- Educational/Skill training
programmes - these cover
a wide range of social and other kinds of skills - literacy,
personal hygiene, STD's (sexually transmitted diseases),
family life education and consumer self-help.
and Recreational programmes - involve
a daily physical fitness routine, card games, sports,
cultural shows and group outings.
- Occupational therapy - Residents
are employed and paid for work done in the various
institutions owned by the Society of St. Vincent de
To most people, mental illness
remains shrouded in an aura of fear and mystery and for
persons afflicted with this condition, perhaps the biggest
problem lies in dealing with being labeled as "madmen". However, one finds that
residents of the facility reveal a surprising "ordinariness" a
depth of humanity, in spite of the tragic circumstances
of their lives. This fact becomes all the more evident
when one considers that many of these residents are able
to explain their past with such astounding clarity.
Henry, an eleven year resident
of the half-way house, says he became mentally ill some
seventeen years ago. "I
was living on the streets, running from place to place
because I felt that people were following me." He also
heard powerful, commanding voices urging him to commit
anti-social acts. After brief stays at the psychiatric
ward of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital and Marian House
he was referred to the Nazareth House facility in 1994.
He credits much of his improvement
to the staff at the half-way house, being touched especially
by the care and concern that they have shown. At the present
time, his "voices" have
fallen silent but he is still jittery and he has to take
a regular course of medication - tablets twice a day and
a 2cc. injection once monthly.
Another sign of well-being
is his spiritual life. A devout Catholic, he attends
Mass at the Cathedral Parish each Sunday without fail.
For the future he hopes to set himself up as a shoemaker - a skill
he acquired many years ago.
'Al' was a sportswriter for
the ' Guardian' in
the 1960's. One of his favorite sports personalities was
Andy Aleong, St. Mary's schoolboy who played football and
cricket at the national level. Al suffered prolonged mental
illness falling sick in the late 60's and was in and out
of St. Ann's hospital until 1990 when was admitted to the
Rehabilitation Centre at Arima. He was admitted to the
Half-way House in 1993. At the centre, as part of his occupational
therapy, Al sells newspapers on mornings until 10:00 a.m.
For the future Al is not very ambitious. He simply hopes
to return home one day.