New Derry sites examined for alcoholics’ housing complex

NO GO: The Nazareth House proposals have had to be scrapped after meeting resistance from local residents in the Bishop Street area. 1501JM20
NO GO: The Nazareth House proposals have had to be scrapped after meeting resistance from local residents in the Bishop Street area. 1501JM20

Those behind plans for a permanent housing development for alcoholics have said they have identified a number of potential sites in Derry’s cityside.

Initial proposals to develop 22 - 24 person Supported Living Scheme complex at the former Nazareth House site on Bishop Street had to be abandoned last month after meeting with a flood of protest from residents.

While no decision has yet been taken as to an alternative preferred site, Martin Meek from Oaklee Trinity- which have been nominated by the Housing Executive to create the facility in conjunction with DePaul Ireland- told Derry City Council’s Regional Services Committee on Tuesday that the housing development was still very much needed in the city.

In a presentation before the committee, Mr Meek said that the consultation on the Bishop Street site “didn’t go too well”, and confirmed that Oaklee Trinity were now hoping to develop the Nazareth House site solely for family and elderly social accommodation, “but not for the Supported Living Scheme”.

He said that since the Bishop Street plans fell through, “we have subsequently started looking at other sites in the cityside area of Derry. We are currently looking at a couple of sites.”

The location of the sites being looked at have yet to be mad public.

Kerry Anthony from DePaul Ireland- which also runs the Foyle Haven wet hostel in the city centre- also alluded to the “controversy around the project”.

She added however that there was “a great need” for a permanent, assisted living housing accommodation for people with alcohol addiction problems in Derry and who were at risk of homelessness, if not already homeless.

She said a number of such people who fell into this category would not be able to live independently.

“Their needs are such that they need ongoing, on-site support,” Ms Anthony said, adding that DePaul Ireland already run a similar housing complex for 30 people with dependency issues in Dublin city centre.

“This service will be a long term, for-life accommodation. It is not a hostel. It will be for men and women.”

She added that the new facility will closely monitor residents, and include CCTV inside and out, with an enclosed outdoor space within the confines of the building, while diversionary projects will also be offered to residents.

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack said that no-one would argue against the need for such a scheme.

“I think that every family has experienced the destructive effects of dependency on alcohol,” she said, adding that it was incumbent on society to provide for those whom it had failed.

“We recognise that these individuals should not be treated as outcasts.”

She added that it was also important to be mindful that there would be those in the community concerned about the potential effect of such schemes on property prices or the lives of their families.

“I think the right balance must be struck over this location,” Colr Cusack said.

Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue added that she hoped the team tasked with providing the new facility “took away some of the very valid views that were given by the residents” in the Bishop Street area.

Wishing the project team success in finding a suitable location, Colr. Logue asked for the councillors to be kept informed if another preferred site is identified.

Mr Meek assured Colr. Logue that there would be a consultation process attached with that.