A service to ensure people living with addiction are not forced to live on the street has been stepped up in Derry.
An outreach service, run by Depaul Ireland’s Foyle Haven, aims to provide a one-to-one support system designed to improve the lives of those suffering with alcohol or drug addiction.
Tim McQuade, Foyle Haven’s manager, says the Harm Reduction Floating Support Service helps “steer” people living with addiction in the community away from the dangers of losing their homes.
“This is about the prevention of homelessness for those with chronic addiction whose housing tenure is in jeopardy.”
Mr McQuade explained that while there is currently “very little” street homelessness in Derry, “there is a large proportion of people who have alcohol problems drinking on the street.”
The team goes about its task of harm reduction by tailoring its support to each individual, Mr McQuade told the ‘Journal’ during a relaunch of scheme to promote its services.
“We look at the whole person, we take the time to earn people’s trust and get to know them. We don’t force change on anybody but help facilitate it.”
Those referred to the service are assessed over a period of four to five weeks and then have specific goals set. “The targets set for the individuals are tailored to them, they mean something to the individual, and are realistic and achieveable,” Mr McQuade explained.
‘John’, a user of the service, was consumed by alcohol addiction when the turned to Foyle Haven’s floating support team a number of years ago. He knew alcohol was “taking over his life”, but it was already too late because he had lost his relationship with his wife, children and family.
‘John’ has found “great support” in the Foyle Haven. He continues to have periods when life becomes “so unbearable that he binge drinks”. However, much of the time, with the help of Foyle Haven Floating Support, he has long periods of sobriety where he is able to cook and clean for himself, and also meet his son.
Another person who uses the service, who did not want to be named, outlined the importance of the service for people living with addiction in Derry. “I don’t know what I would do without them; they take me home and wait until I’m in. They always make sure everything is alright. If I ever need any extra support they’ll sort out any difficulties; they’re completely non-judgemental and always give advice.”
Speaking at the relaunch, Kerry Anthony MBE, CEO of Depaul Ireland, said that the service has an important role in the city. “The Depaul Ireland Foyle Haven service focused in the past on the day centre on John Street. However it has become clear that our service has a key role to play in supporting those living in the local community with addiction issues who are at risk of homelessness.
“Our identification of this need has led to the relaunch of this innovative service. The staff team will work in partnership with the local community to help people in addiction and their families to improve their lives through housing, social skills, relationship building and addiction support. We are grateful to our funders, Supporting People and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for their commitment to this service and the improvement of services for people with an active and challenging addiction,” she said.
The Foyle Haven Harm Reduction Floating Support Service is expected to work with 30 people at any one time and will operate a waiting list once capacity is reached. GPs, social workers, addiction counsellors, support workers and people in addiction themselves can all make referrals to the service.