Sr Joan Stapleton: Engaged residents at Prague HousePrint
The establishment of Prague House was prompted by Sr Francesca Healy’s experience in the home care nursing service of St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne when she has cared for many frail men in what she considered sub-standard accommodation.
On November 22, 1976, Prague House in Sackville Street, Kew was blessed and opened to receive the homeless men from the inner suburbs of Melbourne.
Today, Prague House – at its new location in Cotham Road, Kew, gives a home to 45 men and women. Within this group, many suffer from mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities, and drug and alcohol addictions.
I have been privileged to be part of the Prague House story for 25 years. There are many occasions on which I am in a position to share faith with the residents.
A special time for prayer with the residents is the weekly Communion service. The life of each resident is celebrated appropriately at the time of death. Other special parts of my role include visiting residents in hospital, choosing birthday gifts for residents and staff, organising the football tipping competition, playing bingo and rummy-o, and shopping for residents.
I have experienced so many heart-warming stories of men and women who have made their home at Prague House.
One such resident is Jack, who was well-known as he sat outside Myer’s in Burke Street. He lived on the streets and was therefore un-medicated and mentally unwell.
Various places of accommodation were tried but he always gravitated back to the streets. Jack came to Prague House in 2004 and settled in well. He is still with us, enjoying his big breakfast and sitting in his favourite chair.
Not only has Prague House given a home to so many residents, but through the activities program, residents are engaged in meaningful activities of interest to them.
Book reading times are eagerly anticipated by some residents. The engagement with the book, and the reader’s voice, may recall pleasant moments when a child, ensuring an enjoyable experience.
The arts program nourishes the senses and allows the resident to be present in the moment, rather than being preoccupied with habitual thoughts. Residents also enjoy seeing their art works displayed.
Special women’s group activities meet the needs of women and create a safe environment – they include weekly knitting group with the special involvement of a volunteer, and a monthly cup of tea session. One resident says: “I live for these sessions.”
Listening to music each afternoon is a popular activity for residents. It brings warmth and a sense of community at what can be a low point of the day.
Volunteers and school students make a significant contribution to the life of Prague House. Residents look forward to their visits each week, to their friendship, to the games of pool, darts, table tennis and rummy-o.
As we reflect on the mission of Prague House, we are reminded of Mary Aikenhead’s words: “We give the poor for love what the rich can obtain for money.”