News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Sunday April 21st 2019

No room for mentally ill

Gerald Schubach contemplates being out on the street as the home for people with psychosocial disorders where he lives intends to evict him. His plight highlights the difficulties many people with psychiatric disabilities face. Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

A man who has been battling a mental disorder since he was a teenager is facing eviction from the only stable home he has ever known.

Two years ago, Gerald Schubach, 49, found a decent place to live in Observatory but now the organisation that took him in wants to put him back out on the streets.

Comcare, a charity trust that provides accommodation for people with psychiatric disabilities, has given Schubach until July 30 to move out of their Nuralo home in Observatory for an alleged breach of the trust’s contract agreement.

Schubach, who has now had a taste of living in a comfortable and safe home, has vowed to fight the eviction with the assistance of Annie Robb, a social rights advocate from the Psychosocial Disability Rights Project.

Nuralo home charges R 670.00 a month for board and lodging and Schubach, who receives a disability grant of R1080.00 a month, said this is the only accommodation he can afford.

“This place is my home. Other homes won’t allow animals and I’m not prepared to leave my cat behind,” he said.

“If I move, I could have a serious nervous breakdown.”

Robb said Schubach first received an eviction letter on April 12 for an alleged breach of contract but this was successfully challenged by an attorney at the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) who called the charity trust and told them they could not evict someone without a hearing.

In early June, Schubach received an additional eviction letter for another alleged breach of his contract and a hearing date was set for June 7.

Schubach claimed he received the letter signed by Comcare director Michelle De Goede to appear before the board on charges of telephonic verbal aggression and abuse, including swearing at a staff member on May 31st, and verbal aggression and abuse including shouting and swearing at Comcare offices, where both staff and residents were present, on June 3.

Schubach admitted to some of the accusations and was found guilty. He was then told to vacate the premises by July 30.

“De Goede has told him to move out by July 30, no matter what,” said Robb.

They say they can get an eviction court order because they are service providers and not landlords, she added.

“You can’t throw somebody out because of verbal aggressions,” she insisted.

A source working at the Observatory home, who does not want to be named for fear of losing her job, said De Goede “does not listen to anyone”.

The source claimed it was “a complex issue” and that Schubach was not a troublemaker.

De Goede confirmed that they were terminating the contract with Schubach at end of this month.

“If a resident does not meet his obligation, he is asked to leave,” said De Goede.

She added that they had followed all procedures to evict Schubach.

“We work with people with psychiatric disorders so their perception is disturbed,” she said, adding that they had proposed alternative accommodation for Schubach.

But Schubach said the proposed accommodation, Loaves and Fishes Shelter in Observatory, was only temporary, that he had stayed there before moving to Nuralo home and he was not prepared to go back there. – West Cape News

Tags: comcare, lrc, nuralo, observatory

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14 Responses to “No room for mentally ill”

  1. Moosa Salie says:

    I can vouch for the fact that Gerald gets on well with his fellow housemates. This morning I popped around to have a chat with him and to give him some moral support. I asked him to go somewhere with me for about 15 minutes. Not knowing that he would be returning soon, one of his housemates asked him if he should do his dishes for him. If Gerald was indeed a trouble maker and did not get along with his housemates, this would never had happened.

  2. annie says:

    Michelle de Goede is the vice chairperson of the Western Cape Mental Health Review Board. This is the institution that should be protecting the rights of people living with psychiatric disabilities. Her insistence that Comcare does not have to adhere to the Prevention of Illegal Evictions because they are a “service provider” of accommodation indicates a poor understanding of legislative requirements of basic South African law and disregard for the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities to be full citizens. This is discrimination and an abuse of power. This should be deeply concerning for all stakeholders

  3. In “mental health” housing, the disability and use of services is made into a “master status” justifying subjection to the overriding authority of the service provider claiming that ordinary housing rights do not apply. Just as “mental health” laws are used to override the ordinary right to free and informed consent. And in many countries “sheltered workshop” is a euphemism for super-exploitation of people with disabilities permitted in the name of “service provision”: the service being the opportunity to do menial and unrewarding labor, for a tiny fraction of the prevailing wage.

    People in the U.S. are similarly stuck in mental health housing because it’s all they can afford on our equivalent of a disability grant. I believe what’s really needed is affordable, non-discriminatory housing separate from the mental health system. And if Mr. Schubach could find such housing it might be the best solution. But until that time, or for people who choose mental health housing, all the rights of ordinary tenants should be upheld.

  4. Jeff Makana says:

    Comcare, start caring and respecting the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities… Profits before humane treatment is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

    Do the right thing, stop the eviction process now not later…!

  5. Moosa Salie says:

    Gerald was intimidated by a fellow housemate,for having rocked the boat with the Comcare system. On Tuesday I had to fetch him at Nuralo house, as he was very distressed by the incident.

    Fortunately I was able to be there for him. What about the many who don’t have friends and a support network, and have to face the brunt of intimidation and bullying by those who have power over them?

  6. annie says:

    The case continues. The Housing Tribunal has issued an interdict halting the eviction proceedings pending an investigation. We have been informed that despite many efforts by Mr Goeieman of the Housing Tribunal to communicate with Comcare, there has been no response. Issuing a subpoena to Ms de Goede to appear before the Tribunal is being considered – failing to respond to that will be a criminal offence. Meanwhile Comcare has sent messages that “court papers are almost in order” for Gerald to leave – this indicates their disregard of the rule of law and is clearly designed to intimidate. This amounts to more than just discrimination – it is blatant disregard of the law and reflects negatively on the Social Workers and mental health professionals

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  9. […] Interesting story about a man being persecuted for swearing. Battling stigma of “mental illness”, the press continue to refer to psychosocial disability as a disease. […]

  10. penny says:

    But, just a thought, the trust specifically says that people must be relatively stable to be accommodated and not be abusing. It’s sad but it’s a place for people to stabilise and learn to live in a community with a view to eventually making their way into the ‘real world’. Swearing, etc. is not OK. If I did it at work I would be fired. This gentleman needs to go back to Valkenberg and change his medication as it’s not working.

  11. annie says:

    The case continues. Comcare has now approached the court as required by law and notice to evict has formally been served. The Court has been notified that it will be opposed. We await a court date.

  12. L Kruger says:

    It saddens me that the people who should understand the unfortunate impulses of sick people, the one’s who REALLY should understand, can be so heartless. This must be one of the hardest places on earth for the metally ill. Nobody cares. I am sure Gerald is doing his utmost to survive in a world that does not make sense to him. How dare you persecute him for swearing. We all swear and I am sure it is MUCH more difficult for him.Should such sensitive ego’s be working there?

  13. anonymous says:

    Does anyone know how Gerald is doing now?

  14. In the knowing says:

    Unfortunately all facilities have rules and regulations. Just because this man has a mental disability doesn’t give him the right to abuse. It’s easy to throw in your 5c when you are not actually trying to run such a home. If Gerald was taking his meds regularly then, he would be able to live a relatively normal life.

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