Alcohol is the reason why Simon won’t spend Christmas at home this year.
Simon, 35, is an alcoholic and has been a resident at the House in the Wells for the last three years. He hasn’t had a drink of alcohol in more than four months and is on the road to recovery.
“I am determined to do it this time,” said Simon sitting on the bed in his small bedroom. “It’s the first time I’ll not be with my mammy for Christmas but in order for me to stay off the drink I have to remove myself from situations where I would be tempted.”
Simon is one of 24 residents in the House in the Wells and along with his mother, Ann, and the other residents, he was at the annual House in the Wells Christmas BBQ on Friday. The event was part of Homeless Awareness Week and was organised by the the Civic Homelessness Forum and the Derry Civic Alcohol Forum.
Simon, the other residents and their friends and families were treated to food prepared by volunteers from the Rapid Relief Team.
“I used to drink in all kinds of weather under the Flyover,” said Simon. “I would have frozen half to death if it meant I could have a drink. I’ve been living here for three years now. I can hand on heart say that if it wasn’t for the House in the Wells and the help I get from my support worker, Aidy [Brown], I would be six feet under,” he added.
Aidy Brown is a Support Worker at the House in the Wells and he said the reason why they continue to host the annual Christmas BBQ is because they want to show the residents and their families that they belong to their community.
“The House in the Wells is a wet hostel. It provides street drinkers with a safe and controlled environment for them to drink. It’s not a free-for-all or anything like that - we are here to help and support these people and to show them that they are very much part of society and of this community,” said Aidy.
The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Elisha McCallion, has pledged her support for a new Civic Forum that targets the issues of alcohol, drugs, homelessness and mental health. The new organisation will replace a number of forums which have been in operation in recent years, including the Derry Civic Alcohol Forum, the Strabane Civic Drug and Alcohol Forum and the Derry Homeless Forum. The new Civic Forum will be officially launched in March 2016 at a half day conference in the Derry and Strabane area.
“It’s important that we look at how we are helping and supporting the homeless and those with drug and alcohol problems,” said Bernie Heery, Regional Manager of the Civic Homelessness Northern Ireland Forum,
“The introduction of the new Civic Forum will enable support services to do this and it’s great to see the Mayor of Derry and Strabane supporting it,” she added.
Sandra Duffy works for First Housing, an organisation that provides help and support to the homeless and those who are in acute housing need.
“Such services as the House in the Wells and the people they serve are an important part of this community,” said Sandra.
“The annual BBQ is a good event as it gives all of the different agencies and groups the chance to come together under one roof. There are representatives from Apex Housing Association, the Housing Executive and people who work with the homeless and those with drug and alcohol problems.
“The homeless and the people who use the House in the Wells are just as much a part of this community as everyone else and I am delighted we have this event every year to remind everyone of that,” she said.
lIf you are homeless or struggle with alcohol and drug problems contact Civic Homeless Northern Ireland Forum in Rath Mor on 02871 366363 or First Housing in Bishop Street on 028 7126 6115.