Depaul’s Foyle Haven award-winning Safe from Harm project has helped change the lives of a group of people and a city. The drop-in facility in Derry city centre now opens every day, giving local street drinkers a place to go for shelter, food, heat and company. The extended opening hours have also helped reduce crime against street drinkers, and the number of people using the project admitted to the local A&E has been halved.
Foyle Haven ensures that the people they are supporting are at the centre of the delivery of services. A group worked with local author and playwright Felicity McCall to tell their stories in a book. One of them, Aoidh Barbour, worked with Felicity to write a play on life as a street drinker, which he also helped to direct at a local theatre. Performed over three nights to a packed house as part of the first UK City of Culture in 2013, the play received rave reviews in the local press, helping to highlight issues street drinkers face.
The book’s launch at a local library gave group members the chance to talk to the public about their project and sign copies of the book. Being able to tell their stories has given people in the group a sense of achievement, improving their self-confidence and esteem.
The accomplishments of all involved have had official recognition too. The project picked up two awards – runner-up in Ireland in the Voluntary Sector EPIC awards for contributions or success in community based arts and winner of the Peer Award for Excellence.