The Whitaker Centre, based in the London Borough of Islington, provides support and assistance to local street drinkers.
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Each year more than 300 people have used the Whitaker Centre. Each person comes with their own set of problems. Alongside their alcohol misuse, the people who come to us can also experience a combination of poor physical health, mental health problems, drug misuse, homelessness or insecure housing, loneliness, long-term unemployment, domestic violence and family breakdown. Some of these problems exacerbate alcohol misuse; some are a result of heavy drinking; all play a part in preventing people from making changes in their lives. The Centre provides a safe and supportive environment and we adopt a gentle approach that aims to reduce the harm people are experiencing because of their drinking and to improve their quality of life over time. The Centre is open on week days between 9am and 3pm and people can drop in at any point during these hours for food, a cup of tea, to use washing facilities, clean their clothes and to enjoy some company. We offer activities during the day that people can join in with. These include literacy sessions, quizzes, karaoke and art groups. Each user of the Centre is supported by a key worker who provides them with help and advice on a range of subjects. Some people need support to claim benefits or sort out housing problems. Others have serious health problems and we help them access GPs and other health services. For those who are ready to stop drinking, we can support them to access detoxification services. The challenge in our work is to engage every service user and enable them to accept help, build their confidence and develop their life skills so that they are able to address the problems they experience. This can be difficult for many people, particularly those who have been drinking over many years and have chaotic lives, but through the activities and support that we offer at the Whitaker Centre we have seen many make remarkable changes in their health, behaviour, personal care and alcohol use. If the Centre did not exist most of the people we work with would receive little or no support and would end up back drinking on the streets, involved in crime and anti-social behaviour or in hospital with serious health problems. We rely on the generosity of charitable funders to enable us to continue the valuable support that this service provides.
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