Linda McKinney, a resident of Bishop Street, has asked us to publish this letter which she has written to Oaklee Trinity and Depaul Ireland outlining her objection to the proposed development of an alcohol support facility in the area.
“The location of this project is wrong as it lies within metres of three schools and a youth club.
We also have similar type support facilities within five minutes walking distance from Bishop Street - The House in the Wells, Foyle Valley House, Damien House and Foyle Haven. Another alcohol dependant facility being built in our area will saturate us beyond our capability.
We as residents didn’t object to the opening of Foyle Valley House or Damien House or the Foyle Haven. This resulted in “on street” drinking with both women and men. It became a no go area for our children and we have never complained. Our children lost the right to play in that beautiful landscaped green space. Not only did it become a magnet for older people with alcohol problems to drink outside but also for massive numbers of young people congregating there to drink as well. We still didn’t complain, we just ensured our children stayed and played in the Bishop Street area.
With the facility at the Wells it was always clear that our children were never allowed to locate in that area either or use it to go to and from the town.
As this facility is now a wet house there has been a huge reduction in anti-social behaviour in the area but there is still a major risk and it continues to house on street drinkers, not as many as before but they still come to drink in this area.
The staff who work in the facility liaise closely with residents to reduce risks and it has definitely improved but we still have safety factors that will not enable our children to walk freely in this area.
Bishop Street lies in between both streets and is as safe as any other area in our city. The development of another facility that is designed to give permanent homes to high dependency alcoholics right in the heart of our street will totally remove any safe passage for our children to either play in, access the local schools or access the city centre.
Bishop Street is an area that will continue to have large numbers of children (approx. 1,000 per day) using the street as their way to and from school and traffic chaos for at least three hours per day
We are situated in a high risk area in terms of potential dissident activity – PSNI when called to another local alcohol dependent facility had a two hour response time due to this risk – how safe are not only those involved in the disruption but also the support workers and local community.
As a neighbourhood renewal area suffering some of the highest levels of multiple deprivations I feel that there are better and more suitable places within the city to host this facility.
The lack of community and resident engagement in the development of the alcohol strategy that deemed this facility was really needed leaves me with no confidence that it contains accurate information. We have never seen the evidence that suggests people with alcohol dependencies in this city want to live in this facility?
During the development of the strategy that says this facility is needed there was no consultation with residents that have lived beside alcohol dependant homes over the years. There has been no consultation with community workers including those that work on the ground in the development of this strategy.
Experience in living within this community over the last 35 years informs me that there will always be an anticipated disruption with serious impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of our residents and in particular our young people who continually witness this behaviour because they live in close proximity to a large number of dependant facilities.
There will never be such a time when we are not living in fear of the “what ifs and the whens”. Confining a large number of people with similar addictions who suffer a multitude of health issues will always have a direct negative effect to the community as a whole.
I know this because I have grown up in this area and as a result have been instilled with fear and anxiety when passing some of the characters who have been allowed to use this area as their own open air pub. With the developments within the House in the Wells changing to a “wet house” and the feasibility study being developed for the Foyle Valley House to have similar facilities we have finally been given respite to the fact that our children will at least be allowed the right to live without such prominent behaviour continually being in public display on our streets.
This doesn’t mean we should therefore agree to build another facility, rather, we should be supported by the NIHE and the Western Trust to ensure our existing facilities are maintained and utilised to their full potential and all changes that need to be made to ensure the safety of our children are made.
Over the last number of years the behaviour of the residents in the Foyle Road facilities and in the House in the Wells facility has ensured our children cannot live and grow in these areas. The lack of enforcing drinking by laws in our communities has resulted in not only local residents using the area to openly drink but also other residents coming into the area to continue with their habit as they have done so over the last number of years.
This may take many more years to resolve.
Residents are aware that these support facilities do great work and while unhappy that such behaviour is very prominent in our community they do have the security that their children have safe passage in Bishop Street which this proposal will remove.
This unreliable, rushed consultation process without due thought and consideration on the location, an adequate risk assessment on the entire area being completed, consultation with those on the ground, professional people and the total lack of consultation in the development of the overall strategy has led to my distrust in this entire process and as such demand that planning for this project is postponed. “
Linda Mc Kinney