Plea to save vital service used by recovering addicts in Portsmouth

From left, Garrod Phillips, Jane Muir, Donna Carter, John Fraser and Mark Taylor of the Big Issue Picture Ian Hargreaves (161285-4)
From left, Garrod Phillips, Jane Muir, Donna Carter, John Fraser and Mark Taylor of the Big Issue Picture Ian Hargreaves (161285-4)
Picture: Paul Jacobs (142476-229) PPP-140824-032155001

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ORGANISERS of a drop-in centre that helps recovering drug and alcohol addicts to stay clean have put out a plea as they face eviction.

The Recovery Cafe, in Kingston Road, Buckland, was set up three years ago, but has been given notice to leave by February, meaning it must find a new premises or stop running.

Jane Muir, a former alcoholic who has been running the cafe, said: ‘Our fundamental need is premises. We have to be out by February 1.

‘If we have nowhere to go then we won’t survive. We are the only non-referral drug and alcoholic addiction service in Portsmouth.’

She said the cafe, which also offers courses and therapy, was self-funding through encouraging social enterprise and that, unlike other services, it had not cost the taxpayer.

‘We recognise that the way services like ours are funded has changed. That’s why we are always looking for opportunities,’ she said.

The centre is also home to the Big Issue offices for the area, where the sellers are co-ordinated.

Mark Taylor, sales and outreach manager, said: ‘It’s been great to have these offices and a base to work from. People need to know where they are.’

Garrod Phillips, from Buckland, is a support worker at the cafe. He said: ‘We need help to keep it alive. This project is very important, especially in today’s climate of austerity.’

The group was allowed to use the centre rent-free after Cranstoun CDA Portsmouth, a charity offering similar services, moved out.

Instead of losing its services, a group of centre users took over the organisation.

The building has now been bought by Portsmouth City Council, which has plans to expand its services run by the Society of St James next door.

Consultant in public health Kate Lees, from Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘They were using number 67 rent-free on a temporary basis, but now the building’s owner is selling it. The council is buying the building with funding from Public Health England. This will enable our current provider of recovery services – the charity the Society of St James – to expand their work.

‘They will renovate number 67 and use it along with number 69. Their services include drop-in sessions where people in recovery support each other.

‘The council has offered the café financial help towards renting new premises.’

Mike Taylor, operations director at the Society of St James, said: ‘We were due to take over number 67 on November 1, but are happy to let the café stay until February 1 instead, to allow them time to find somewhere else.

‘We sincerely want the cafe to find a new location as they provide a much-valued support network. We have offered help, including the use of rooms in the evening and weekends free of charge.’

Jane said the Recovery Cafe was used by scores of people from across Portsmouth and that the group hoped to find a new home.

She appealed for anybody that can help to get in touch with her via e-mail on empowering2change@gmail.com