Belfast Telegraph

Former Derry street drinker rallies for Foyle Haven Day Centre

By Leona O'Neill

A man who almost died from street drinking in Derry is pleading for the centre that he claims saved his life to be thrown a cash lifeline.

Eamon Foley was speaking as the campaign to save the Foyle Haven Day Centre in Derry stepped up a gear.

Around 50 people attended a rally outside the centre last week amid fears a shortage of funding could see it close.

Support by the Big Lottery Fund ran out in November and Depaul Ireland, who run the centre, say the Housing Executive have allowed them to secure the service in its current state until March 2016, but after that date the future is uncertain.

Eamon Foley said the staff gave him back his life after three years of street drinking.

“Around 12 years ago I found myself homeless and in Derry,” he says. “I was drinking very heavily on the streets. I simply couldn’t function without alcohol.

“When you are a street drinker no one talks to you. You are the lowest of the low.

“A fellow street drinker told me about Foyle Haven. When I went there I was shocked because they spoke to me and listened. They asked me how I was and wanted to know about my good days and my bad. Their motto is, ‘Never look down on someone unless you’re giving them a hand up’. That is how they were with me.

“They looked after me, the cared about me, they gave me back a sense of myself. They put me on the road to recovery. When I was at my lowest ebb in life they fed me, they provided me with a safe place to lay my head down, they gave me clothes, they made sure I made medical appointments.

“I almost died through drinking. I had acute alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, renal failure. The doctor gave me 48 hours to live. I remember lying in the hospital and thinking about a former street drinker like me who was now sober and working at Foyle Haven. His story gave me the courage and inspiration to quit.”

Eamon has been sober for six years and travels to give his testimonial to alcoholic and substance abuse groups, community groups and churches.

Kerry Anthony, CEO of Depaul, said that staff and service users were devastated by the funding crisis.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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