A new centre has been established in Leicester to help those on the streets struggling with substance misuse. Around 150 people are using the facilities each month with many being encouraged into treatment as part of a multi-agency approach.
Drug and alcohol misuse problems are common among people on the streets.
Leicester has had a day centre for street drinkers and drug users for many years. But the clinic – known as the Anchor Centre – had become run-down and unpopular with little success in getting people into treatment.
On some days only a handful of people were using the centre. It was clear the situation had to change.
A new £600,000 centre was opened in the city centre in April 2018 with capital funding from the council and Public Health England.
The centre, called No. 5, is run by Inclusion Healthcare, a social enterprise commissioned by the Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to provide primary healthcare services for homeless people. Funding for the centre is provided by Leicester City Council (LCC) and by the local police and crime commissioner.
No. 5 offers a daily Monday to Friday drop-in service for those on the streets who are struggling with alcohol and other substance misuse problems. Food is served from 8am in the morning and there are also washing and laundry facilities available.
The centre has a wet room where those with alcohol dependency issues can drink under supervised conditions to ensure safer drinking and creating an environment to engage them with treatment services.
Inclusion Healthcare Director of Specialist Services Wayne Henderson said: “We needed to do something different. The Anchor Centre had lost its way. No. 5 has a big emphasis now on recovery.
“The problem with people who are on the streets and dependent on drinking is that they often think they have to drink more than they do to avoid withdrawal feelings.
“So in the centre we only allow them to consume alcohol when they need to prevent withdrawals. It is about educating people how to drink more safely in a controlled and safe environment. We run daily activities, like wellbeing groups, discussion groups, quizzes and bingo, to take their mind off alcohol and have periods without drinking. It is all about engaging them and then using that as an opportunity to get involved with treatment.”
The centre is now seeing around 150 people a month. A number of those just attend on an ad-hoc basis, but around 60 are visiting the centre a minimum of two to three times a week, some daily.
Of those with a recognised substance misuse problem, 70 per cent are engaged with Turning Point, the local treatment provider.
Mr Henderson said: “Everyone who requires it gets referred and we work hard then to engage them with treatment. Turning Point come in and do sessions at the centre and we support them to attend appointments.
“It is about making it as easy as possible. You have to grab the opportunities once these clients are engaged.”
The impact this can have on people’s lives is profound. One of the people who has benefited is Marsiuz. He is an eastern European who has been known to local services for some time.
For years he was difficult to engage with treatment, but he is now alcohol free and has been regularly volunteering at the centre for a number of months. He has now applied to Turning Point to train to be a peer mentor and help continue with his recovery and use his “lived experience” with others via their treatment programmes.
Engagement is at the heart of what No. 5 does. In setting up the centre, Inclusion Healthcare and the council consulted widely with local businesses and the centre is now active in community meetings.
Mr Henderson said: “People naturally get worried when something like this opens up. When there is already an existing issue they think it will encourage more people to congregate on the streets and drink and they fear that will further damage the neighbourhood.
“We have taken time to talk to our clients about the importance of being respectful to the local neighbourhood.”
How is the approach being sustained?
The centre is keen to get other services involved with their clients. Inclusion Healthcare also runs a primary care centre for homeless people in the city and so there was a close relationship with staff there immediately.
One of Inclusion’s healthcare assistants provides a weekly session at No. 5 to run a health and wellbeing session, offering health checks and advice. Inclusion has also provided a number of flu vaccination clinics at No. 5 during the winter period.
Meanwhile, Dear Albert, a social enterprise which provides mutual aid and mentoring via people who are in recovery from substance misuse, provides two structured sessions a week at No. 5. Benefit advice officers also come in to help clients apply and access universal credit.
Mr Henderson said: “We want to do a lot more of this. These services have a valuable role in helping our clients. We have a fully-fitted kitchen so we can offer training facilities around cooking and food hygiene to help our clients develop skills that may help them into work. We are always open to offers of help and support from outside agencies and charities.
“No. 5 is part of a city-wide multi-agency approach including the council, police, housing, Turning Point and health care to assist people who are on the street and get them into support to start to address their issues.”
Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby is delighted with the work that is being done. He said “The facilities and services on offer are vital in helping to address the complicated issues surrounding the often chaotic lives of street drinkers and other substance misusers. This centre provides innovative services, tailored to helping problem drinkers get off the streets and access the support and advice they need to address their problems.”
Director of Specialist Services