Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Ebenezer Home faces imminent closure

Published:Thursday | April 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
From left: Member of the operations team at the Ebenezer Home: Angie Barton, public relations officer; Joan Clarke, and Operations Manager Paulette Wheeler have taken to the streets soliciting donations to avoid the closure of the home. The campaign is called 'Save Ebenezer Home' and will end on April 29.

the Manchester-based Ebenezer Home for the mentally challenged and the homeless, which focuses on treating and rehabilitating individuals and placing them back into their communities or with families, has fallen on hard times and could close its doors as early as May if it doesn't receive much-needed assistance.

The Ebenezer Home, located in Grey Ground district, came into being after Hurricane Gilbert battered Jamaica in 1988 and the plight of street people became known to a number of stakeholders. Twelve years after the storm, an old building near the Manchester Infirmary was approved for refurbishing, and in 2000, then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson officially opened the fully functional facility, which was able to accommodate 20 men.

Since then, the home has been able to stay afloat through donations and an annual fundraising banquet. However, last year, because of persistent heavy rain, the banquet had to be postponed.

"We are now in dire (straits) where our finances are concerned. On June 17 last year when we should have had our fundraiser dinner, it was a time when Mandeville was more or less under water and we had to postpone and reschedule for the end of July, " said Joan Clarke, public relations officer at the home.

"What we normally get there tops up the money we get from the board of supervision, which is a small stipend, but for that dinner, we didn't make any money" she added.

Struggling to operate from the donations received last year, Operations Manager Paulette Wheeler said that they are always at their maximum with residents and the need is great.

"We also take in prisoners, those who have mental health problems and are just in lock-ups making the rounds. We get a doctor to assess them, and we will take them in. We also take those abandoned in the hospital or those the mental health team has picked up," Wheeler disclosed.

She told The Gleaner that it was even more expensive to maintain operations as the drop-ins required just as much, or even more, medical treatment than those who resided there. "We had one with a brain tumour that we had to do an MRI and a CT scan on. That's $50,000 for each test. We have others with growths in their stomachs who require tests to be done," disclosed Wheeler.

... implements self-financing initiatives

Angie Barton, a member of the operations team at Ebenezer Home, says that it costs approximately $400,000-$500,000 per month to keep the facility fully operational even with the new projects implemented to sustain the home.

"Livestock-rearing and crop-farming have been introduced with the dual aim of reducing the overall operational cost, while providing useful rehabilitation and psychotherapy for the men," Barton disclosed. "Under this rehabilitation programme, the men, with supervision, raise 13 goats, a broiler-layer operation, and two cows, one of which had to be sold hastily to keep the home running."

Operations Manager Paulette Wheeler added that though they were happy for the help with staffing costs that they had been receiving from the board of supervision, partnering agencies, and the Southern Regional Health Authority, there were employees at the home who didn't get paid and the needs of the home superseded what they were able to collect.

"This is a community-based initiative, and I want the community to be more involved. I want people to also remove the stigma associated with mental illness because it can happen to anyone. It starts with depression," said Wheeler. "The needs are great, and we have engaged Food For the Poor to help with an expansion, but that can't take place until we get some help."

The home is currently seeking help through fundraising efforts, voluntary social work, donations of medical supplies, and cash.