Tuesday 22 April 2008

In with the new... but the old still remains

I had the pleasure of following up on an earlier visit to the new Fordneuk Street Continuing Drinkers Supported Accommodation Project in Bridgeton for it's opening on the 2nd of April.

It's a modern facility, with care packages and staff on hand to give more focussed attention to the multiple problems the residents face. Health services are built in, along with laundry rooms, a kitchen in some rooms, a dining room and private garden area. I had been to visit before the residents moved from James Duncan House on Bell Street, and was glad to see that they were starting to settle in. These
articles from the Evening Times demonstrate the change that has been felt by a few of the men.

At the opening, a lot of mention was made of previous hostels, like the Great Eastern, and ones which still exist in the city today. I took up the offer of a visit to
see the comparison between Fordneuk Street, James Duncan House and another, smaller, hostel still in operation - it was like night and day. The difference between the huge, 250 bed institution and the new facility on Fordneuk Street couldn't have been more stark. Long corridors stretching into the distance, small cell-like rooms, toilets and showers shared amongst many other people.

I can't imagine what it must have been like to come to stay for the first time, or to live here indefinitely. The only thing near the experience (and I appreciate it's not even that close) was Hillhead halls of residence in Aberdeen, but even there the rooms were larger and had their own sinks. One remaining member of staff described what it was like at capacity, and how hard it was to make sure the residents were safe. The communal areas were, as you'd expect, massive to deal with the numbers, but things like the laundries were far too small (a couple of machines for the whole place). By most accounts, it wasn't an easy place to live or to work.

The other hostel we visited was much smaller. Despite the best efforts of the manager, staff and some of the residents, it still had an oppressive air. There were only a few showers for the entire place, and not many more toilets. It wasn't great.

I hope that the Council will continue to invest in facilities like the one in Fordneuk Street; having seen the alternative there's really no choice. I know building new facilities will take time, but we can't continue to let down some of the most vulnerable in society. I'm not on the Education and Social Work Committee , but I will watch the progress in the Council with interest.

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