Humberstone House has place for two more

Back from left, housemother Margaret Logan, Neil Brehany, Andrew Roots, Ralph Heher and Natalie Putznell with Gareth Putzell in front.

A jigsaw puzzle itching for busy fingers, a friendly cat, a cosy fire and supper on the table: Humberstone House may seem like a typical Plumstead home, but it’s not.

The house is a group home for five intellectually challenged young adults, and they are looking for two others to join them.

Humberstone House is a non-profit company and was bought by the residents’ parents in September 2013 and opened for residents two months later.

Located on the corner of a quiet cul-de-sac of Humberstone Road, it is 100m from the Plumstead Station. The location is important because the residents have jobs and prefer commuting on public transport.

Natalie Putzell is one of the residents. She wakes before the sparrows and experiences the same frustrations as other commuters getting to her job in Maitland. She is the only female in the house and dreams of having another female, or two, join her.

The guys use special needs transport to get to Oasis Protective Workshop in Lansdowne Road that provides employment opportunities, skills development training and day care centres for about 450 people.

Neil Brehany said their preference is for housemates who can care for themselves. Four of the “founding” residents were previously at Great Oaks in the grounds of Schoenstatt Estate in Constantia (“Great Oaks opens doors with a blessing,” Bulletin March 7, 2013) and the new home draws on experience gained there. Two of the founding residents, brother and sister Natalie and Gareth Putzell, live on the upper storey, in the converted loft. They took the Bulletin on a tour of the house.

The downstairs rooms vary in size and the two vacant rooms are at the rear of the house which was added on after an anonymous donation of R1.39m in 2014. The residents say their new housemates could could also be students, just renting accommodation without any duties, or they could pay nothing or a reduced rental in exchange for assistance at agreed times, such as one weekend a month or the occasional evening.

Tony Heher, father of one of the residents, Ralph Heher, said preferred residents should have some kind of job, either sheltered employment or a protective workshop, and be able to either use special needs transport or the transport provided by their place of employment.

The resident housemother is ex-school teacher Margaret Logan who also has remedial experience. She helps the residents socialise and takes them on outings.

Humberstone House is part of the Southern Intellectual Disability Initiative (SIDI), a network of independent group homes that work closely with the departments of Health and of Social Development and private sector donors.

Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability director Tessa Wood said intellectual disability was one of the most overlooked disabilities for service provision.

Of the more than 200 forum members in the Western Cape, including schools, workshops and various facilities, only 36 provided residential care. She said state funding was scarce, so they looked to the community for support.

Sihle Ngobese, Social Development MEC’s Albert Fritz’s spokesman, said the department had a list of facilities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in poor communities (with monthly income below R3 500).

Mr Ngobese said assisted living was an “effective caring model”.

“Humberstone supports people with low and moderate intellectual disabilities. The departments of Social Development and Health are looking at supporting profound and severe intellectual disabilities and especially where there is no family,” he said.

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