The Ebenezer Rehabilitation Centre
For almost two decades the Ebenezer Rehabilitation Centre has been providing a critical service for hundreds of Jamaicans with mental health issues. Nestled in the cool hills of Manchester, the Registered Charitable Organization (RCO) rehabilitates and reintegrates mentally challenged homeless persons since its official opening on November 22, 2000, by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The home which was initiated by the late Mavis Francis, a psychiatric nurse, and Joyce Powell, a social worker, facilitates 20 men to date.
Operations Manager for the home, Paulette Wheeler, said that after the 1988 Hurricane Gilbert there were no provisions for the homeless, especially those with mental health challenges.
“A group of concerned citizens came together to seek land from the Parish Council with a view of building accommodation for the homeless. Funds were also raised in order to ensure their charitable dream became a reality,” Wheeler said.
The centre which is on the same property as the Manchester infirmary seeks assistance and partnerships from various organizations such as Projects Abroad, RADA, Food for the Poor, the Mandeville Ministerial Fraternity, the Board of Supervision which recently allocated a small subvention to help pay the centre’s utility bills, among others. The central Jamaica based institution provides temporary accommodation in a clean, friendly and safe environment to both mentally challenged and homeless men within Manchester and its environs. “We take men directly from the streets, those lost in the penal system and those abandoned in hospitals,” Wheeler said.
Aside from providing shelter to these men, psychosocial programmes and medical care are initiated to rehabilitate the men with their families and communities in a professional and dignified manner.
“At the centre we focus on rehabilitation, encouraging family members to visit, ensuring the clients have access to education, access to employment. We have care plans for each client which sets out their goals for themselves with our assistance and we don’t charge our clients,” Wheeler stated.
When the persons are admitted to the home they are placed in groups with a structured timetable of events each day. Each group has a leader who helps to mentor the new client and help him or her settle in. Wheeler added that once clients are in stable condition, issues hardly occur.
“Mental Health Officers and a Medical Doctor visit once per month to ensure our clients receive the best possible care. Psychiatric Nursing Aides are employed at the Centre and it is staffed 24/7. A psychologist holds regular therapy sessions,” she said.
The clients go out into the community on their way to work or school every day without any problems. They also attend church services on either a Saturday or Sunday.
Fundraising Efforts and Impact
Chair of the Ebenezer Rehabilitation Centre fundraising Committee, Joan Clarke mentioned the success of their fundraising efforts.
“Our annual fundraising dinner was held in June of this year, and we accumulated nearly 500,000.00 which has helped us; however, when we tell persons the figure they think it’s quite a lot of money, but they don’t understand that sometimes monthly medication amounts to around $83,000 depending on the availability of the different medications,” she said.
Meanwhile, Supervisor at the Southern Regional Health Authority, Marsha Mullings- Thompson highlighted the importance of the Rehabilitation Centre. “Persons within Manchester are developing more & more psychotic disorders. The females are experiencing more major depression, the males are developing more induced cannabis disorders, and the children between 11 and 17 are developing mainly major depression in comparison to children other parishes who face more conduct disorder than major depression,” Thompson said.
She highlighted that when the home was opened in 2000, it was only for the mentally ill, but eventually, it ventured into helping homeless persons by taking them in.
Many success stories have come out of the Rehabilitation Centre.
“I remember carrying mentally challenged homeless men off the streets who are now working and trying to rebuild their lives,” Thompson said.
She added, “I remember one who works with someone to unpack trucks and another person who cleans people’s home for a living. These tasks might seem small, but they are really commendable when compared to the mental state these men are journeying from.”