Judy Nimblett, facility Manager
from 1990 to 1994, remembers what it was like in earlier
times. A vivacious mother of three, she spoke animatedly
about what it was like trying to re-socialize residents
by taking them to Carnival shows and the like. "It was something else. If there were seven
of them, all seven would walk behind me, in a straight
line, serious and unsmiling, looking neither right nor
left." She relates that many residents came lacking the
most basic of social skills.
Some did not even know how to sleep on a bed or even how
to clean themselves.
In spite of these problems,
she gives the residents much credit for their own improvement. "We have to understand
that it takes a tremendous amount of work just to move
from the streets, to St. Ann 's, to the Half-Way house."
is a fragile accomplishment however as months, even years
of work can be easily undone. "Change takes a long time
and it is very easy for them to return to the streets.
To call someone a madman can undo all that work in seconds."
Present Manager of the facility
is Albert Hudson. Himself a father and grandfather, Hudson
has established an easy rapport with residents, some
of whom call him "Daddy".
He says that living at the Half-Way
house has taught him that these men are regular human
beings with special problems. His management style
is very easy-going. "I believe in
allowing people to solve their own problems."
Over time, he has developed
a keen awareness of the problems that inhibit the rehabilitation
process. Substance abuse he says, poses particular difficulties.
The area of Port-of-Spain in which the centre is located
may be described by some as "drug-infested".
Gesturing towards the Dry River
, he says "the drugs are all around them. They just have to
go in the back to get them." Though it is not a regular
occurrence, stealing can also be a problem. Hudson explains
that St. Ann 's, the jail and the streets each have their
In these places, from which the
residents originate, what we may consider as stealing
would be called borrowing. As an example of the different
culture out of which the residents emerge, he also
pointed to the fact that almost all the residents are
addicted to cigarettes and caffeine which he says is
part of the St. Ann 's culture.
Speaking of residents' families,
Hudson expressed sympathy with all those faced with the
anguish of dealing with mental illness. Nevertheless,
even family members can act as obstacles on the road
"When they are sick, no one comes
to see them" he says, "But as soon as they are well and
making a little money, they re-appear and some of the men
would start spending their savings on this relative or
that relative." In the face of it all however, Hudson feels
that the centre has done well, given all the constraints
and impediments with which it is faced.
Overall, the success of the
facility has been moderate - if
one wishes to judge strictly by statistics. Since 1989,
112 men have passed through the Half-way house. Of these
26 men or 23% have been confirmed as either living independently
or living with their families. A smaller number, 17 persons
or 15%, have returned to the streets.
The real success
perhaps, is to be measured in the depth of commitment
in the staff and in the level of communion between staff
and residents. The success is seen in the recognition of
the basic humanity of the mentally ill. The
Body of Christ has many parts and the mentally ill also
have their role to play. They show us perhaps, the other
face of God who identifies with those in need.
in the lives of those who work with the mentally ill,
and those who in the public and political arenas, fight
for their betterment. The love of Jesus, friend of the
poor and the sick, is made manifest. May the Lord continue
to provide us with such examples.