Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was in his home city over the weekend to open a Garden of Remembrance for past residents of a refuge for homeless men with a history of drug and alcohol abuse.
The House in the Wells in the Bogside area was founded 40 years ago by activist Denis Bradley, then a serving Catholic priest.
The shelter catered for men who were “at the end of the road” giving them warmth, food and a roof over their heads.
Speaking to the North West Telegraph, Mr Bradley paid tribute to the people from the Bogside who embraced the ethics of the House in the Wells and gave generously to make sure its residents were looked after.
He said: “I am amazed that it has been 40 years since we first opened the House in the Wells and today was very moving as we remembered all the men who have passed through its doors during that time.
“The house was never about treatment or rehabilitation, that came later with the Northlands Centre. This was very much the end of the road and offered somewhere to sleep, warmth and food to those who found themselves there.
“The Northlands Centre which came much later did offer treatment and rehabilitation, so in a way we did this ass-about-face, but the House in the Wells worked well and that was down to the working class people of the Bogside.
“They were part and parcel of the place — the butcher donated meat, people contributed what they had in ways they could and I think the essence of what it is all about can be summed up by Anton Wallich-Clifford, who founded the Simon community.
“Anton and I were good friends and every year he came to Derry for a holiday and actually stayed in the House in the Wells, which some would think a bit unusual, but he told me he loved to stay there because to him the House in the Wells encapsulated everything he wanted the Simon Community to be.
“It was in the community, run by the community and supported by the community.”
Mr McGuinness said the House in the Wells has become a blueprint for similar projects in other parts of the country.
He said: “People have learned from what happened here 40 years ago, it came from a loving and caring community that recognised that when people are down on their luck they need to be reached out to and helped and today we think about the hundreds that have passed through the place.
“The House in the Wells has been providing shelter and support for almost 40 years and Andy Bonner and his colleagues are to be commended for the help and care they provide.
“I hope the residents will find that this garden, and the excellent help and services provided here, will be a real encouragement to them.
“It is reassuring for the individuals and those close to them to know they can have a safe and secure shelter.”