Monday 19 March 2018

Relief at Carraig Eden as residents' home is saved


John Doyle and Phil Thompson at Carraig Eden in Greystones
John Doyle and Phil Thompson at Carraig Eden in Greystones

After two years of uncertainty, residents of Carraig Eden could breathe a sigh of relief recently, as a Government offer to buy the Greystones house was accepted by the owners, Irish Assemblies of God.

Clients of Tiglin rehabilitation facility move on to the property following the programme, and in recent months all 30 residents received eviction notices.

'From being on the programme, my whole progress has been structured towards Carraig Eden,' said resident John Doyle. 'I learned in Tiglin that I'd have to start a new life. To do that I needed a platform such as Carraig Eden to move on from. I couldn't go back to my old life, there were just too many bad memories.'

In Greystones, he could avoid triggers and found a place that was going to keep all the pressure off.

'As things unfolded here it became a realistic possibility what we were going to lose this. It was a big worry. We got our eviction notices which concreted our fears really, a lot of guys started to panic. Anxiety levels went through the roof here. It's very much a community here and we all care for each other so when you see other guys struggling, of course you're going to struggle yourself.'

Many of the 30 men felt helpless as the threat of losing their accommodation appeared to become a reality. 'Some guys were close to relapse, some guys did relapse, and there was a genuine fear here. We were all looking for other accommodation but the market is just crazy,' said John.

'Any properties that were available, the landlords weren't taking anyone on the HAP scheme. I know it's not legal, they weren't saying it. They're in a very strong position that there's that many people looking for accommodation, they can cherry pick. It just made life very hard for us.'

John has been accepted onto a community drug and alcohol diploma, starting in September. 'I had the very real prospect of being homeless while in college,' he said. 'College to me is a very big part of my going forward.'

He has learned about addiction the hard way, he said. 'Tiglin gave me opportunities,' he said. 'I'm fortunate enough now to be in a position where perhaps I'll be able to help others coming through.'

When he learned that owners had accepted the offer, and Carraig Eden saved, he was in shock. They were on a retreat in Cork when the news broke, and it took some time for it to sink in. 'We were geared up for a long fight here, with the prospect of the bailiffs coming down. We had no idea how it was going to go.

'That pressure is off us now, it's just brilliant. We can really plan a proper future now,' said John.

Tiglin CEO Phil Thompson said that their first intention was never to establish a re-entry programme like Carraig Eden. 'What we quickly realised after about a year in operation was that people had very few options to move back out to,; he said.

'They invested significant amounts of time and effort into getting not just clean and sober but figuring out what life after that was going to look like and understanding that they had to protect their sobriety and everything they fought for. So we approached the people who owned the building at the time to see did they have rooms we could rent.'

It started out with just one or two guys using the premises as a stepping stone. From there, Tiglin rented a large six-bedroom apartment. The apartment is now the last stage of the programme. Clients can start putting into action what they have learned on the programme and live it out in society. From there, they moved on to rent rooms at Carraig Eden.

'We figured that people wanted to stay around sober community for longer, rather than going back to same routine as had beforehand when not ready. They started to understand the whole thing of people, places and things being a very important thing around their sobriety,' said Phil.

'So they started to rent individual rooms from the people who owned the building and we provided support to them as they continued on, which became less and less because it was independent living. They would just check in if something was problematic for them and we'd help them through it.'

With this in place, people didn't have to re-enter either into a troubling situation for their sobriety or back into homelessness. They had somewhere that supported them and with strict accountability around maintaining a sober environment.

'When we heard Carraig Eden was up for sale, we had to make an effort to try and see if we could secure it,' said Phil. 'We've had a long drawn out two-year situation. It came down to the wire but thankfully after many trials we're now celebrating the fact that these guys have what we've asked for - an opportunity to get back into normal everyday life in a safe environment.'

He said that officials in Wicklow County Council, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, Minister Simon Harris and others had enthusiastically fought for the facility. 'They worked together to get this deal across the line,' said Phil. 'There was nothing straightforward about it and they didn't give up.

'What encouraged me and really encouraged the guys was that probably for the first time they felt that a politician represented them and their needs.'

Phil described the tension when the men were handed eviction letters a few months beforehand. 'Everything they had worked for, such as their education and career opportunities, was jeopardised,' he said. Phil said that the Irish Housing Network and the residents of Greystones had been exceptionally supportive.

'Greystones as a community has always accepted these guys, and they have respected that greatly,' said Phil. 'I'd like to see more of that, including job opportunities, work experience and so on. We'd like to say thank you to the community for their support of the petition. Residents got great encouragement to see that so many people were signing it.'

Now, Wicklow County Council will own the property and Tiglin will have a long term lease to continue providing the services. There are plans to refurbish and upgrade down the line.

Bray People