Twenty-five years ago, Whanganui Community Living Trust was formed and is still going strong today.
"We support people with psychiatric disabilities to have meaningful lives in the community," says manager Mike Ward.

Services manager registered nurse Sue Trevethick says such people often lead lonely lives.
"We help them get out into the community so they don't feel so lonely and forgotten.
"Some people are visited daily, some once a week. We try our best to meet people's needs. The level of their support is driven by our service users."

Whanganui Community Living Trust supports 85 people in the community.
"All living independently," says Sue, who has been 15 years with the trust. "It's about managing day-to-day living."
She heads a team of four clinicians.

Mike joined the trust 24 years ago as manager but remembers its beginnings.
"It was the imminent closure of Lake Alice when legislation changed to make some of the people who were institutionalised, there illegally, effectively. That meant institutions had to radically change the way they did business.
"There was a group of local people, which included some with 'lived' experience of mental illness, family members of those with 'lived' experience, as well as a couple of good people in the community. They decided it was all very well to empty out institutions, but where were they going to live? Around that time, around the country, organisations like this sprang up. Here, it got support from St Paul's Presbyterian Church which bought the first supported residence in Virginia Rd."
Funding was only available then for supported residences, but it became clear it was unfair to force clients to live with strangers when services could be delivered in their own homes.


"There was a lot of bravery in the trust in those early days because the community wasn't too pleased about the concept of 'those people' living next door," says Mike.
Organisations were set up to fight the trust.
"We took the view, 'let's engage with these groups and talk to them'," says Mike.
It was a policy of honesty and transparency, something that continues with the service users.

"We're very clear. We don't set up an expectation we're going to be buddies for life. This is a stepping stone, an aid, someone to walk alongside as long as it's required.
"We have 25 staff, and we actively employ people with lived experience. We have people with lived experience on our governance board and we always have. It's part of breaking down those barriers ... mental health is part of health. We're not healthy if we're not mentally healthy."

Whanganui Community Living Trust is a not-for-profit organisation. The staff and board are stable, long term, experienced groups.
Mike says that means they can be creative within their funding constraints. "We can be more useful to people and meet an individual demand rather than forcing people to fit into a box of funding."

Sue says the biggest change she has seen is that previously, things were done to and for people. "Now, we're doing it with them and moving towards people doing it for themselves."