Cut in support for Derry street drinkers sees emergency services squeezed

 Foyle Haven day centre run by Depaul

PRESSURE has increased on Derry's already over-stretched emergency services after funding cuts slashed the opening hours for a centre for street drinkers.

Data collected since homelessness charity Depaul cut the opening hours at Foyle Haven day centre by 28.5 hours a week in June, shows an increase in demand for emergency services and acute homelessness support in the city.

Depaul say the reports from Foyle Haven management and the City Centre Initiative show a clear correlation between its reduction in hours and an increase in public order problems and anti-social behaviour as street drinkers "spend greater amounts of time on the streets of Derry".

According to the report, police have observed more homeless people at Strand Road, Victoria Market and behind Foyle Road car park - with 95 incidents recorded by CCTV involving street drinkers in two months.

The report reveals a spike in work by Depaul's `Housing First' and `Harm Reduction Floating Support- First Housing Night Outreach Support Service'.

Director of services David Carroll said the reduction in opening hours "has had a profoundly negative impact for the vulnerable men and women that rely on the service, as well as, for public order in Derry City as a whole".

"Greater pressure has been placed on partner organisations and public services.

"Foyle Haven offers a safe environment for people with complex needs and a history of street drinking or substance abuse," he said.

"Scaling back the hours of this vital service removes that safe haven which many had come to rely on, leaving them to engage in harmful behaviour on the streets of Derry, to consuming greater levels of alcohol and to risk taking behaviour."

Jim Roddy, from City Centre Initiative, said it is "clear to see that there has been an immediate and negative impact in the city centre".

"There has been a serious knock on effect for public order on the streets of the City with a directly linked increase in incidents that would not have occurred had people had an accepting place to go.

"Shorter opening hours for Foyle Haven has meant that a service which is hugely effective in making our streets better has been undermined."

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