When you are homeless and can barely clothe your body, you have only your dignity to remind you that you are human.

You are vulnerable – socially, physically, emotionally.

This is the reason for Us being here –

You are alone - socially, physically, emotionally.

When are you are homeless and mentally ill, the world turns its back on you. You do not exist. Period.

This is the reason for Us being here –

Towards Building a Society that CARES

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Going back home to the family

As the intervention and therapy process progresses, the clients we work with begin to slowly recover their cognitive faculties, in particular their memory. Eventually they may remember their names, their family member’s names, their home addresses and other identification details. With the help of the Kolkata Police, all attempts are made to locate their families.

Of the approximate 2000 homeless persons with mental illness whose lives and health that Iswar Sankalpa has intervened in, till date we have managed to restore 177 different individuals. Of the 177 individuals restored, their religious backgrounds have been as follows: Hindu – 144, Muslim – 31, Christian – 2. [Figures till September 2013]

Due to the fallibility in the nature of mental illness, often an individual can travel hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres, away from their homes and families. They become lost in lands, wandering from one literal state to another state for years on end. With no means of verbal communication and understanding, they stay lost and invisible with no respite of home in sight. Iswar Sankalpa, till date, has come across homeless and psycho-socially disabled clients from the majority of the states and territories of India, as well as others from even our neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal.

In terms of repatriation, the organisation, which must be remembered is based in the state of West Bengal, has managed cases of repatriations to 12 separate states. The breakdown is as follows (number repatriated in brackets): Assam (7), Andhra Pradesh (4), Bihar (12), Chattisgarh (1), Jharkhand (3), Madhya Pradesh (8), Maharashtra (4), Odhisha (4), Tamil Nadu (1), Tripura (1), Uttar Pradesh (1), and West Bengal (108).

The Process: Ensuring Smooth Transitions

Family repatriations are an endeavour that has been identified as a crucial undertaking by Iswar Sankalpa. It is a slow and time consuming process. Nonetheless, witnessing a family come together, reaccepting another lost being back into their lives, is a beautiful moment. However, one cannot simply leave this moment at that, this moment now extends into both the individual’s as well as the family’s future. This moment of repatriation is now a process of reintegration into a new life, impacting both family and the person concerned.

A crucial thing to remember in the repatriation process is the individual himself/herself. Although now part of a family system, this person will still require medication, treatment and care to remain stable and not relapse back into their mental illness. It is critical to realise that this extra care and supervision required by the family may be difficult to achieve in reality, whether simply because there is now yet another mouth to feed in an already impoverished family situation, or because mental illness is still stigmatised and not fully understood nor accepted.

Iswar Sankalpa attempts to make this transition back into the family as smooth as possible, with as less disruptions and chances for rejection. While under the care of Iswar Sankalpa, the organisation provides training opportunities for the individual concerned. These include basic life skill training, communication and functional literacy training, vocational and occupational therapy and training, etc. The purpose behind these habilitative efforts is to eventually provide these individuals with skills and opportunities for earning a livelihood and sustainable living.

In addition to this, Iswar Sankalpa not only tries to provide for the immediate medication costs of treatment post repatriation, but also tries to connect the client to government hospitals or local health centres for long-term future medication provisions. The more enabled and self-sufficient the recovering person is, less the likelihood of him/her becoming a burden to the family, and the less likely the individual is to relapse back into their mental illness and possibly become homeless again.

Iswar Sankalpa has also through some financial support, provided for incentives for the repatriated clients’ families in terms of providing support and care (through medicines, helping to fund visits to Iswar Sankalpa for check-ups and so on). It is hoped that through this new incentive-based system the individual and their family would continue their relationship with Iswar Sankalpa, and regularly return to the organisation for their follow-up checkups and continue participating in our post-repatriation care and treatment program.

In programs such as these where the quantity and quality of resources – both human and otherwise – are constantly being contested and remodelled, it is of critical need to ensure the upkeep of the resource pool. As such challenges are certainly expected to be encountered, especially when it comes to developing a more sustainable, systematic and all-encompassing restoration care delivery model. As of this moment, Iswar Sankalpa is currently in the process of seeking significant and appropriate sources of funding to further this aim as soon as possible within the near future.