Talks begin to save Derry street drinkers’ centre

The Foyle Haven entrance, John Street.
The Foyle Haven entrance, John Street.

The charity Depaul was today entering a series of talks with various groups in a bid to save its Derry centre for street drinkers after funding dried up.

Speaking ahead of the talks, Depaul said it remained committed to the day centre on John Street, which has been hailed as a life-line for those who suffer from the disease of alcoholism and find themselves drinking on the streets as a result.

The people attending the centre can access professional and practical assistance and support to reduce the harm caused by their use of alcohol.

The Foyle Haven Day Centre was established by a group of people in 2001 and merged with Depaul in 2011.

The centre has been funded by a cocktail of funding streams, one key funder being the Big Lottery.

This funding stream was due to end in November 2014 but Depaul negotiated an extension until November 2015, but a further extension is not possible.

Through efficiencies, and support from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Depaul have been able to secure the service in its current state until March 2016.

Ms. Kerry Anthony MBE, CEO of Depaul, said: “The staff and service users of Depaul are deeply saddened by the planned cessation of this funding, without replacement funds being secured as of yet.

“The Day Centre is a key service in the city and we are doing all we can to secure its future past March 2016.

“To this end, we are engaging in a series of meetings with local groups, funders and politicians.

“We have submitted a business case to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and continue to talk to them and other funders to secure the service post March.”

Ms. Anthony added: “It is encouraging to see how much support there is in the city to keep this vital service opened. We at Depaul remain committed to this service for some of the city’s most vulnerable.

“We are also very conscious of the impact that this is having on staff and we are so grateful for their continued commitment.

“It is our sincere hope that we will be able to move out of this period of uncertainty and reassure our staff and service users that the service is secure moving forward.”

From its humble beginnings in 2001 Foyle Haven has become an integral and vital part of the front-line community addiction services in the North West.

The service has succeeded in limiting the harm to people engaged in street drinking, preventing homelessness and has also had many beneficial knock-on effects in the community such as improving the image of the city and reducing the strain on local emergency and law enforcement agencies.

The funding from the Big Lottery changed the face of the service in 2009 as it allowed for hours to be extended to provide a more accessible service to those who needed it.

Ms. Anthony said: “Foyle Haven has supported hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable and it is our intention to advocate strongly to see this service continue in some manner into the future.

“On a daily basis for the past 15 years Foyle Haven Day Centre has served as a sanctuary for men and women with nowhere else to go and Depaul are committed to ensuring its survival to the best of our abilities going forward.”