Staff at Foyle Haven Day Centre have saved 13 lives and helped almost 200 people in the last year, it has been revealed.
The homeless charity, Depaul, released the figures as it announced that funding has been secured for Foyle Haven to secure its operation for another year.
In recent years, the centre has been under the threat of closure due to a lack of stable funding and, as a result, has had to cut opening hours.
Funding for the next year has been secured through the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
The Public Health Agency have also provided additional funds to ensure vital health related initiatives continue to be made available to those accessing the day centre.
Depaul revealed that staff at Foyle Haven saved lives through the administration of life-saving antidote, Naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of a drug overdose.
The charity said it had witnessed a shift in the demographic of people accessing the service, with an increase in the number of those presenting with poly-substance use and severe mental health issues.
A large percentage of service users are under 30 and there are more females accessing support through the day centre.
Depaul interim CEO David Carroll said it was disheartening the centre had to fight for funding.
“It is clear from the number of lives saved within our Foyle Haven service in 2018 that the drug problem within Derry and surrounding areas continues to persist,” he said. “It is incredibly disheartening to have to constantly fight for funding for such a vital service.”
“The number of lives saved and the number of people helped is evidence that this type of service is still very much needed. It should not be the case that we are struggling from year to year. We continue to advocate for greater joined up thinking when it comes to tackling the growing issues around homelessness and drug consumption and for vital services that help those most vulnerable in our society.”
Sinn Fein’s Elisha McCallion praised the work of Foyle Haven and welcomed the announcement that they had secured funding for the next year.
She said that poly-substance abuse in Derry is reaching ‘epidemic’ proportions and staff at the day centre are at the forefront of tackling it..
“There is a clear problem with poly-substance abuse where people are addicted to more than one substance in the city which has reached epidemic proportions and Foyle Haven have been carrying out tremendous work in helping to tackle it.
“This project has saved the lives of many people in our city and helped so many others.”
Foyle Haven has been struggling to secure funding since late 2015 and has been under threat of closure a number of times.
Opening hours were cut in 2017 amid public protests calling for a long term funding solution for the drop-in centre.
Foyle Haven was established in 2001 by a group of local people who wanted to provide support to the city’s street drinkers.
In 2011, the organisation amalgamated with the national homeless charity Depaul.
Foyle Haven operates as a day service for street drinkers where they can access practical assistance and support to reduce the harm caused by their use of alcohol.
This includes providing hot meals, access to showers and laundry facilities, support services and social activities.
Elisha McCallion welcomed the funding boost for Foyle Haven and said that long term funding needs to be secured for their ‘vital work’.
The Sinn Fein MP has been a long time supporter of the day centre and during her time on the local council she initiated a steering group to work alongside Depaul in an attempt to solve the funding crisis.
Ms McCallion said: “I welcome this funding boost for Foyle Haven and the vital and excellent work they carry out in the city.
“While this funding boost is welcome this service needs to be funded on a permanent basis and there is a responsibility on a number of agencies to work together to deal with this issue.”