Salvation Army in Glasgow Launches Peer Support Programme

published on 29 May 2018

The Salvation Army in Glasgow has launched a project to bring recovery to people with alcohol and drug addictions.

The Peer Support programme at Wallace of Campsie lifehouse (supported residential centre) is aimed at residents who are struggling to access vital services that exist in the city.

Specialist support worker Sharon Nedley came up with the idea after more and more of her service users seemed reluctant to leave the centre despite the wealth of recovery options in Glasgow.

Sharon was concerned that many residents seemed “fearful of the unknown” so she decided to bring recovery into the centre. Together with Wallace of Campsie manager Fiona McPhail they spoke to the recovery communities in Glasgow and asked them to nominate two people to be peer supporters at the Salvation Army centre – the biggest of its kind in Glasgow. 

Gayle Ross and Kevin Stokes were put forward for the roles and successfully became peer supporters earlier this year.

“What we are doing here at the Salvation Army is delivering caring and insightful support to people who are unable to access other forms of support,” says Sharon.

“The residents buy into it because they feel they can relate to Gayle and Kevin. When the residents are talking about their difficulties, using drugs chaotically, the risk taking behaviour and the consequences, Kevin and Gayle understand that.”Kevin and Gayle began by running a recovery group once a week, overseen by Sharon. They also helped out with a weekly recovery movie night – a social event in the centre with underlying therapeutic value to the residents. The peer supporter role also involves helping residents attend 12-step fellowship meetings, and providing additional support through one-to-ones, supervised by Sharon and support staff. The peer supporters have accompanied residents to recovery cafes within the city and Kevin has been attending the Homeless Providers Forum in the north east of the city, observing many external agencies working together.

Service manager Fiona said: “In a short space of time Gayle and Kevin have become very much part of our staff team. When Gayle and Kevin arrive looking healthy and happy, it gives our residents hope, that recovery is indeed possible. Having the extra resource with Kevin and Gayle, having a simple chat over a coffee in the lounge, you never know what may come out of that conversation. One tiny seed of recovery may be planted.”

Kevin has been in recovery for four years, having spent most of his adult life using drugs and alcohol. Speaking about the Peer Support programme, Kevin said: “I’ve never been in this field of work before but I’m enjoying being able to help people, and give them hope. We have had a lot of training and I’ve learnt new skills from the staff in Wallace. I’m learning every day. This isn’t my first introduction to the Salvation Army. They helped me when I slept rough in Wolverhampton around 12 years ago. The officer at the time gave me practical support, and I’ll never forget it. He bought me a train ticket to London and gave me money for a drink, as I was in alcohol withdrawal. I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to give something back to the Salvation Army.”

Gayle from Glasgow was brought up in Neilston. She remembers being brought up well, but fell into drugs at 21, and soon began taking heroin. From there she says her life spiralled out of control. She was getting her life back on track until a family bereavement in 2007 saw her relapse. She was able to get support and has been in recovery for two years.

She said: “I love working as a peer supporter. I have worked with women before so it’s different working in an all-male environment. I can share with the residents that I have been there and suffered tragedies, and can still come out the other end. It’s unrealistic to think we will get everyone into recovery, sometimes it’s just about listening and giving residents our time. For some of our residents it’s just about keeping them alive.”

Kevin and Gayle have spent a lot of time with staff in Wallace, learning new skills and gaining knowledge, building their confidence in the work that they do. Gayle enjoyed peer supporting so much, she applied and was appointed to a part-time assistant support worker post in the Salvation Army’s Huntershill Court lifehouse. She had the opportunity to attend the Salvation Army’s social service conference in Swanick, which she said was an incredible experience, and an amazing, unique induction into her new role.

Back in Wallace the Salvation Army is actively recruiting a new peer supporter, who can give both staff and residents their experience, strength and hope.