"(California Living Homes) is talking permanent housing, and that's a new concept for the mentally ill in this county," she said.
Rainwater said California Living Homes, which has a mailing list of 800, is unique because it is supported primarily by parents of the mentally ill.
California Living Homes Executive Director Liess left her accounting job to care for a 23-year-old schizophrenic son at home. He suffered his first breakdown while he was a high school freshman.
"There is a lot of stress when your home is regulated by someone you love dearly, yet you realize they need their own environment," she said. "You have to restructure your life.
"I've heard horror stories about kids being bounced around in the mental health system and on the streets," she said, explaining why she has worked two years without pay as California Living Homes's only full-time employee. "A lot of (parents) come to us and say we're the first glimmer of hope they've had."
"Many people have said it would be great if we had such a place, but most felt it would be impossible because of the lack of funding and expertise," said Sara Shatford, former president of the San Gabriel Valley Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
The home plans to foster fellowship among residents so that they feel like part of a family, Liess said. For instance, if a resident has to be hospitalized, house mates would be encouraged to visit the patient for moral support.
Activities such as recreational therapy and social skills programs will be provided. Residents will be expected to do their share of housekeeping and help with meal preparation.
"Once they have a family environment and support, they become very workable," Liess said. "Given residential stability, they just become more peaceful."
She is now negotiating the acquisition of another home in Highland Park.
Regina De Jernette, coordinator for a Pacific Clinics homeless program, says the Pasadena home will be filled "in the blink of an eye." Forty individuals are already on a waiting list.
With the comradeship of steady house mates, "it would be like receiving group therapy day in and day out, instead of just once or twice a week," she said. "These people need the connection and support."
She cited a homeless schizophrenic she has referred to California Living Homes. He was devastated after he was rejected by relatives when he went home for Thanksgiving, and has regressed. "He needs a family," she said.