As the YEP continues its focus on homelessness in our city, we visited the Growing Rooms to find out more about the way it is helping people to make a real change in their lives.
Therapeutic drug and alcohol worker John Davis said: “What we identified is that in Leeds we were trying to tackle three problems – homelessness, alcohol addiction and drug addiction – as three separate issues. We realised there was nowhere to live in Leeds with an abstinence programme.”
Those who join the Growing Rooms are signing up to just that, with expectation being that they will attend 12-step recovery programmes in their own time to support them in staying alcohol and drug free.
In return, St George’s Crypt provides them with a bed in one of its ‘recovery houses’ for a year along with a structured programme of group therapy work and volunteering in preparation for paid work later on.
“We’re not just here to get people substance free, put them on benefits and say go live in some deprived area of Leeds,” John said. “We’re getting people back into employment and off benefits – but it all stems from giving them a safe place to put their head on an evening. The guys who did need a bed will tell you without that, they would still be on the streets using.”
Much of the group work is about understanding problem behaviours and how to cope with challenges that life can send their way. But it also helps clients to develop their own support networks and offers practical support.
John said: “We try to break down as many barriers as possible – things you and I take for granted like having a birth certificate, a passport, a bank account; getting them a GP, getting them a dentist so when they leave us, they’re ready for employment. We want clients to become productive members of society, not to rely on agencies to live life for them.”
For John, who has been in recovery for a number of years himself, it means something to be able to help others to change.
“What we’re doing here at Growing Rooms I think is we’re dispelling that old idea – once an addict, always an addict,” he said. “I was a functioning addict for a lot of years. I never did anything in all that time unless there was something in it for me. I took from society and now it’s about giving something back, helping people to change their lives. That’s really important to me.”
When John Davis is not busy working with clients at the Growing Rooms, his time is now spent training for what will be his first marathon.
Having previously taken part in 10k runs to raise funds for the project and other work carried out by St George’s Crypt, he has set himself the challenge of completing the Hull Marathon.
With the event now less than a month away, John has received donations amounting to just over £1,300 of the £5,000 he hopes to raise.
Visit https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/johndavis1 to support John’s efforts and make a donation online.