Br Collin Wee gives a haircut to a resident of Hopehouse, located at St Patrick’s School.

LaSalle Brothers’ project aids young offenders, homeless boys

Henry (not his real name) was a homeless youth living at a rubbish centre. The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) then referred him to LaSalle Br Collin Wee where he was given a place to stay.

Even though Henry could be rude and difficult, through counselling, Br Collin helped Henry turn his life around. The young man would one day return to give Br Collin $200 to help other “youths at risk”.

Another homeless youth had been living at a sleazy hotel before Br Collin gave him shelter in what would later become Hopehouse, a joint project by the LaSalle Brothers and a group of lay people, supported by MCYS.
“They were in a stuck situation. Some of them really saw that there was no hope … so eventually what we give them is hope,” said Br Collin who is the House Mentor. “When they leave this place, they can see that … there’s a meaning” to life, he added.

The charity received its approved charity status in Nov 2010 and aims to provide a home for boys, aged 16-21, who have committed legal offences.

These youths are put on probation and some have family problems which make their home environment unconducive for rehabilitation. Hopehouse also accepts homeless boys, those who have been abandoned and those without a family.

The project is open to people of all races and religious backgrounds, and includes guidance, and counselling.

It is located within the grounds of St Patrick’s School in East Coast Road, with premises provided by the LaSalle Brothers. The home currently has eight residents with a capacity for 16.

One of them, Adam (not his real name), said the community service the home provides as well as activities, such as baking, help foster a family spirit and teamwork among residents.

Adam was left homeless after his mother went to work overseas. He was preparing for his A Levels then and Br Collin’s help meant that he had a conducive study environment.

The 22 year-old national serviceman said he likes the home’s family atmosphere and regards the other boys as his own family members.

Staying in the home has also helped “broaden his mind”, learn how to “give and take” and appreciate people of different backgrounds better, he added.

Although Adam knows that he would one day leave Hopehouse, he said he would like to return to help out.

Br Collin said that he, together with a few laypeople, saw a need for a shelter for youths 16 years old and above who lack a family and a home. These people are not legally protected under the Children and Young Persons Act.

The act stipulates care and protection for persons below 16.

Br Collin describes the youths he serves as “in limbo” as they are neither children nor adults.

Some boys have no home to return to and some do not have enough money to rent accommodation, he said. Even National Service would not solve their problems as they have no place to return to during the weekends. That is when the boys may get into trouble and possibly join gangs.

At Hopehouse, staff provide counselling and therapy to both residents and their families with the aim of integrating residents back into family life. Rehabilitation is also offered to offenders.

MCYS too, has also been supportive and works with Hopehouse in monitoring referral cases, said Br Collin.

Over at the home, residents learn to be independent and responsible for their own lives. There is no curfew except for those on probation.

Residents are put in charge of various household chores and are taught life skills such as cooking.

They are also taught to contribute to society. The Hopehouse programme involves them in community service projects such as serving the mostly foreign manual workers at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Hopehouse is 90 percent funded by MCYS.

By Darren Boon
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