‘We are all impacted by someone’s drinking. It’s a community issue’

editorial image

A Derry-based project that helps problem drinkers avoid slipping through the cracks of the housing system and into homelessness, will hold a conference in the Holywell Trust tomorrow.

Glena McDowell-Khan, Project Co-ordinator of the ‘Way2Go’ project, which provides support for people struggling to maintain private tenancies due to their alcohol misuse, said the initiative is making a real difference.

Three years into a five year term, ‘Way2Go,’ which operates through First Housing Aid and Support Services from its office in Bishop Street, has placed hundreds of people in specialist accommodation and reached tens of thousands with information on the impact of alcohol across its bases in Derry, Omagh, Enniskillen, Belfast and Armagh.

“A lot of families that come our way might have lost their tenancies due to the abuse of alcohol, the use of alcohol,” said Ms McDowell-Khan.

“We might be picking them up when they’ve already received a notice to quit and they’re about to lose their tenancy,” she said.

Individuals and families who turn to ‘Way2Go’ when in crisis, receive tailored support and are signposted to the correct services for them. Its interim figures show it’s making a real impact, but Ms McDowell-Khan accepts its a chronic problem in the North West.

“The team here work very closely with the night support services and they are on the ground as front line staff working with vulnerable adults on the street. They’re vulnerable on the streets. It’s dark and cold and it’s in their best interests to get back to the hostel to keep their bed,” she said.

Ms McDowell-Khan said there’s often a stigma attached to people who have lost their way through alcoholism but insisted it’s a societal problem.

“We are all impacted by someone’s drinking. It’s a wider community issue and community problem. It’s not to say, just because someone says they are addicted to alcohol that that’s causing the issue.

“It could be someone misusing alcohol as well and it causes issues...truancy from school, falling behind at school, not turning up for their work, not being proactive when they’re at their work.

“It’s all those elements we take into account and there are things they can put in place to reduce the chances of these things happening.”

For further information about the project contact: Glena McDowell-Khan, via First Housing, 23 Bishop Street, Derry, BT48 6PR or via www.first-housing.com.