Street drinkers’ centre forced to slash opening hours

Local Councillors and protesters take a stance against the threat to Foyle Haven's services earlier this year outside the Guildhall.
Local Councillors and protesters take a stance against the threat to Foyle Haven's services earlier this year outside the Guildhall.

The charity which runs Derry’s “crucial” day care centre for local street drinkers has said they now have no option but to slash opening hours due to a funding crisis.

Foyle Haven will operate in a reduced capacity from the end of July after efforts to secure long-term funding to keep it going at current levels failed.

The Foyle Haven entrance, John Street.

The Foyle Haven entrance, John Street.

This is despite a 58% jump in the number of people using the service from April to May alone this year.

Foyle Haven, which is run by Depaul, is a front-line day service in Derry which provides accommodation, food and support to vulnerable members of the local community, including street drinkers and people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Since the funding from the Big Lottery for Foyle Haven came to an end in November 2015, Depaul said it has “worked extensively” to secure long-term funding so that this “crucial service” can continue.

Together with a range of partner agencies and local politicians, over the past 12 months, Depaul managed to secure interim funding up until the June 30 to ensure the service could run at its existing levels.

At this stage, however, they said they have “exhausted every avenue of funding available”.

The centre has been operating seven days a week for the past six years, from 9am to 10pm Monday to Friday and from 11am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. From the end of July however, it will now only open from 12pm to 7.30pm on weekdays, 12pm to 4pm on Saturdays and will close on Sundays.

Ms Kerry Anthony, CEO of Depaul, said: “We are very disappointed that at a time when the service is needed more than ever we have to reduce the opening hours.”

Ms Anthony added: “We remain deeply dedicated to the Foyle Haven Day Centre, however without a commitment of long term funding we are faced with no other option but to reduce the hours of the service.

“Depaul will continue to advocate and seek alternative long-term funding options for this service.

“Foyle Haven is an incredible service within Depaul’s service provision, the work that takes place to support the people who come to the day centre is greatly valued.

“One of the main indicators of Foyle Haven’s success has been the number of individuals using the service and engaging in harm reduction activities and interventions.

“Between April and May alone we saw a 58% increase on individuals attending core activities within the day centre in the evening which highlights the absolute need for this service.”

Depaul confirmed that all staff have been made aware of the situation. The charity warned that the reduction in services “will inevitably have a direct impact on those that use this service and the front line staff.”

Ms Anthony added: “Our absolute priority continues to be the well-being of the people who depend on our service and of our front line staff who day after day deliver this essential service in Derry”.

Local councillors earlier this year spoke of how vital the Foyle Haven service was for the city.

SDLP Colr. Martin Reilly said at a meeting back in February that “the future of Foyle Haven was a matter of deep concern in the district and further afield”.

Former Sinn Féin Colr. Elisha McCallion said that talks would be required with the Public Health Agency (PHA), WHSCT, PSNI and the council, to find a “collective way forward” on the complex funding issue.

A protest was staged outside the Guildhall over the threat to the service back in February.

In 2016 an emergency short-term package was agreed by umbrella agencies to ensure Foyle Haven could continue providing food, warmth, and shelter to vulnerable people.