Deputy Health Minister praises Salvation Army’s Bridge Programme

published on 9 Jun 2015

The Deputy Health Minister for Wales has praised The Salvation Army for helping transform the lives of people experiencing homelessness and alcohol and drug addiction.

Vaughan Gething AM attended a special event in Cardiff today (Tuesday June 9) to mark the 10th anniversary of the church and charity’s Bridge Programme.

Based at The Salvation Army’s Ty Gobaith Lifehouse in Cardiff (a centre for people experiencing homelessness), which was recently awarded Midlands Centre of the Year at the Learndirect Inspirations Awards, the Bridge Programme is a joint working initiative between The Salvation Army and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s Community Addictions Unit (NHS Wales). It was set up in 2005 to address the complex needs of people experiencing homeless and substance misuse issues. Each service user has a say in how their treatment is delivered, with the ultimate aim of the programme being to resettle people in stable accommodation.

Speaking at the event in the Norwegian Church Arts Centre on Cardiff Bay, Mr Gething said: “The person-centred approach of the Bridge Programme has proven very successful because people experiencing homelessness and substance misuse problems have a range of different needs. These can include support with daily living, access to mental health services and help to manage their substance misuse.

“The £50 million I announced at the start of April will further strengthen programmes like this that tackle drug and alcohol abuse – and demonstrates our clear commitment to reducing the harm caused by substance misuse across all walks of life.”

Laura Carey, manager of the Bridge Programme, said: “Through specialised input from staff and partner agencies, the programme has been empowering people to make positive changes that will transform their day-to-day lives.

“This anniversary celebration is a fitting testimony to everyone who has been involved in the programme over the years.”

Stuart is a service user at Ty Gobaith Lifehouse, who had been living in Caerphilly but moved to Cardiff after losing his job through substance misuse.

He said: “Things started going pear-shaped at home when I lost my job. That was the end of living with my mum so I made my way to Cardiff as this is where I knew I could get help.

“Around five years ago I started to access the purple bus (The Salvation Army’s Bus Project for rough sleepers in Cardiff city centre) and the support workers managed to get me floor space at a church during the winter months. I stayed there for eight weeks and then began staying in various accommodations in the city.

“I bumped into an old friend and she allowed me to sofa surf at her place, but I still was not in control of my life and I thought it was time to seek help and turn my life around.

“I contacted EDAS (Entry into Drug and Alcohol Services) which recommended the Bridge Programme. I kept to all of my appointments and became abstinent from all drug use. The day I moved onto the Bridge Programme was the day I stopped taking drugs. The support workers at Ty Gobaith had faith in me.

“When I first started on the Bridge I expected to fall back to drugs within three months. But with the help and the support I’ve managed to remain clean – and in the next fortnight I’ll be off my methadone script completely. The truth is, though, there’s no way I could have achieved this without the support of The Salvation Army.

“To keep myself occupied I got in touch with the Big Issue and started selling the magazine, for which I’ve won vender of the year twice. I’ve even gone on to work in festivals and have won numerous awards with the Big Issue. People look up to me now, which is a nice thing.

“I admitted to my ex-wife that my alcohol and drug taking had got out of control, which I feared would mean losing contact with my family. But since I’ve accepted the specialised help I needed, my ex-wife has been my rock and my children constantly tell me how proud they are of me. Now they can rely on me as their father and I’m always there for them.

“I didn’t have a future when my life was out of control but now I’m off everything I can see the positive things in life. One of my big ambitions is do some aid work. I see a future now rather than the next 10 minutes.”

Nicholas Redmore, The Salvation Army’s regional homelessness services manager, said: “The Bridge Programme is an innovative example of partnership working that meets the needs of residents in an environment conducive to change.”

Major David Emery, Chaplain to Ty Gobaith, said: “The Bridge Programme is a place of healing, where battles are fought against homelessness, addiction, and despair. It is a place where people can discover and begin moving towards what they were designed to be. It’s a place where people, ordinary people, accomplish heroic things every day.”

Yvonne Connolly, manager of Ty Gobaith Lifehouse, said: “The Bridge Programme strives to achieve these qualities because they believe that they have been commissioned to reach out and help people whose lives are battered and broken. To become well, whole and healed so they can discover their purpose.

“The programme offers a therapeutic and safe environment where people experiencing homelessness can tackle their dependency issues. Service users remain central to the shaping and direction of the programme and its strength and impact can be seen by the year-on-year increases in successful detoxes and planned discharges.

“As the manager of the Lifehouse it’s a privilege to work with such a dedicated team and humbling to see service users change their lives for the better.”

This year The Salvation Army is celebrating 150 years of Christian service and is still at the heart of community today, supporting those in need and transforming lives.