Charity begins with providing a home

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2011, 12:00am


For 27 years, Frances Shiu Suk-yin bounced around between hospitals, halfway houses, nursing homes and a rented flat. Last year, however, the 54-year-old former psychiatric patient finally found herself a stable home, thanks to an innovative programme launched by the charity Mindset.

'I was feeling insecure on my own [in a rented flat] and I found it hard to get help when my condition deteriorated,' she said. 'A social worker suggested this new home to me.'

Shiu now rents a single room in a five-storey home where she and 37 other recovered mental patients live under the care of social workers. 'I've found friends who know what I am facing, and now I am not afraid to let people know who I am,' she said.

The home, Mindset Place, is located among other residential buildings at a location the organisation prefers not to reveal. Opened in July last year, it provides residents with job training and even employment, according to their ability, and a home in a community setting.

Gary Yau Kin-cheung, a social worker at the home, said Mindset had recognised the need for housing for recovered mental patients who were not ready to live alone but whose families could not take care of them after they had left half-way houses. 'There was a gap in the rehabilitation services available for recovering mental patients,' he said.

Government-funded halfway houses provide transitional residential care for recovered patients, but they usually have to leave after two years to ensure a 13 per cent discharge rate each year.

Another social worker at the home, Yeung Kwai-yin, said one in every four patients who leaves a halfway house usually needs further help with daily living. Long-term care homes are one alternative, but they usually focus on intensive care and do little to train people to be independent again, he said.

'Living here, they're more like tenants than patients,' said Yeung. 'There is no limit to how long they can stay, so they can make clearer plans for the future.'

Another resident, Pang King-sang, 45, had lived in a long-term care home before moving to Mindset Place last year. With the help of social workers he finally got his first job in 13 years, working as a cleaner. 'I am happy to have this job,' Pang said.

Social workers are pleased with his progress. 'Before, when he was living in the care home, we didn't think he could function so well,' said Yau.

Residents pay HK$4,000 in rent a month for a room with a window or HK$3,500 for one without, and the rent covers meals and electricity. Mindset Place's location, in a residential neighbourhood, helps the residents to be more independent, since they can go out for meals or go shopping on their own, Yeung said.

They learn to face people who know about their backgrounds, and have fitted into the community. 'The food store down the street gave us 30 boxes of mooncakes before Mid-Autumn Festival.'

Shiu enjoys living at the home. 'We go shopping, go to church and on outings together,' she said. 'Sometimes we do volunteer work, like visiting elderly homes.'

The concept of rehabilitation, said Yeung, 'is not just to help them, but to give them a chance to help others so they can be a part of society again.'

Mindset, a charitable organisation established by a large business corporation, is a direct beneficiary of the annual 'Central Rat Race', a 2.5-kilometre run for charity that will be held on October 16 this year.