Glenside Redevelop


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It could be a scene from any Adelaide street. One resident has a mental illness, and when he suffers, they all suffer.

Recently police were called to a house in Athelstone, in Adelaide's north-east, where they seized weapons, including a crossbow and a sword.

Nine days earlier they'd detained a man at the address under the Mental Health Act.

"These people have to be looked after somewhere," says Eastwood resident John Schneider. "We can't just cast them aside."

Several suburbs away, Mr Schneider, is also worried that mental patients will move out of his backyard... Not into it.

"The residents are up in arms, and it's not only residents from around here at the Eastern suburbs, we're getting letters of complaint in from Glenelg, from Port Adelaide, Cheltenham, Brighton, all over the metropolitan area--even Gawler," he says.

John believes the re-development of the Glenside Hospital will push more and more sufferers into the suburbs.

"They're not listening to the residents," he says. "I mean, the Minister herself won't meet with the public. She's meeting a select group. Now, if they're completely open and transparent, why can't people attend: why won't she meet the people?"

Former Geelong captain John Yeates's son Timothy has spent so long at Glenside, he considers it his home.

"I'm the one who'll end up in bloody Glenside if something doesn't go right," says Mr Yeates. "That's how I feel. Not good."

"I probably took 15 years to talk to someone about it, apart from my own close family, which has affected everyone, all relations, the whole lot."

His fears stem from his experience during one ill-fated stint Timothy spent living in the community.

"He didn't want to be picked up, so he just fought. Which is bloody sad (excuse me)," he says. "And when he was in jail, the people didn't give him any medication (so we found out) so that was a great disaster. It was very traumatic for everybody concerned."

Adding to the stress is the uncertainty over Timothy's future.

"No-one's said anything to myself what is going to happen," says John Yeates. "And that's a big worry."

TT: You said before that there are people who have killed by reason of their mental health issues?
John Yeates: Yes, that's right.
TT: It might sound even sensationalist even to ask this, but do you think that risk would increase as a result of people being shifted out of Glenside?
John Yeates: Oh yes. Most definitely.

Not through anger or malice, he says, but more likely by accident.

"A simple blow, hit your head on the ground and that's it. And that can happen with a schizophrenia person, quite easily."

Early on a Saturday morning, and a group of schoolchildren are playing football on the Glenside Oval.

According to the experts, open space is essential to the treatment of mental illness. So what are we getting in its place? Just what we need: an expended shopping complex, a housing development and the new home for the SA Film Corp´┐Żoh, and one less oval.

Jan Sutherland from SportSA says Adelaide's playing fields and ovals are shrinking at an alarming rate, and we can't afford to lose another one.

"I just don't think they've talked to everybody and really had a good look at what it could be, and the contribution it is to the community," she says.

"A lot of students will miss out playing sport if, if this oval goes, so it's essential it's there for that reason, and also for the community. It's not just an oval, it's a whole community and it's a whole way of life around that oval."

Almost across the road from Glenside, tents have begun springing up in the parklands along Greenhill Road.

Shaunee Fox helps house the mentally ill, and says the redevelopment coincides with closure of many such homes.

"If people are not able to find accommodation, aren't successful in maintaining their own rental accommodation in the community, fall behind on their rent, where else is there for them to go? They don't have a voice. They're a minority group and no-one cares for them."

A supported residential facility in Norwood will be the latest to close, adding to the loss of hundreds of beds in the last few years. The only place left to go is into the suburbs or onto the streets.

"The homeless people themselves are very, very vulnerable people," says Ms Fox. "And there are terrible stories about the effect of them moving into [the] community, and being picked on by the other members of the community and bashed, and mistreated."

John Schneider says he's been told the redevelopment is a "done deal".

John Schneider: "I've had a meeting with the Minister one day and she told me: 'it's a done deal, just move on' and I said, 'well, look, Minister thank you for your time, but I won't be going away'."
TT: So let's get this straight. You say you've been told it's a done deal?
John Schneider: I have been told by the Minister it is a done deal.

Mental Health Minister Gail Gago wouldn't appear on camera, but issued a statement saying no Glenside patients will end up on the street or left without proper care as a result of the development.

The statement says input from residents has led to changes to the Glenside masterplan, and the redevelopment would free up more open space than there is now.

Glenside currently has 240 beds, but plans show the new 100-million-dollar hospital will have just over half that with 129.

Although the government says there'll be almost 90 beds elsewhere in the health system, critics say it's not enough for current needs, let alone planning for the future.

John Schneider: "In 10 years' time, there'll probably be a greater necessity for mental health. There are more and more people suffering from mental illness. Now, that site can grow to accommodate those people."

But not if 42% is sold off.

John Yeates: "I just hope that it's not sold. I really do."