A Visit to the House in the Wells

by | Aug 7, 2023 | News

A Visit to the House in the Wells

On Tuesday 11th July Mark Baillie and I visited the House in the Wells in Derry/Londonderry. Luckily, our visit occurred during one of our rare sunny spells and everyone was in good spirits. As we walked in to the open, airy foyer we were greeted by senior support worker Patrick Downey and a few of the residents. There was a lovely atmosphere with the bustle of the kitchen and smell of lunch being prepared. I noticed the photographs as we walked in. Many photos of residents past and present, framed, made for a (homely) setting.

Mark and I signed in and Patrick brought us through to a room where we talked about the site and the great work that is going on there. We were given a history of the site and service and how it had evolved over recent years. Andy Bonner, the manager of the site, joined us. Andy has been working at the House in the Wells since 1987 and has journeyed with many men at the house throughout that time

The Service

The House in the Wells has been in operation for just over 50 years. It is a service provided by Apex Housing Association. They offer accommodation for men experiencing homelessness with addiction issues. There are 14 rooms and five self-contained chalets that accommodate two people each on site. Residents have access to 24-hour support. Meals are freshly prepared by onsite cooks and specific dietary needs are catered for.  There is a spacious dining room and a large recreation area, a game/hobbies room and a well-equipped gym. There is an enclosed courtyard where various gardening projects have taken place. The five chalets look out on to this courtyard. Residents have full use of the laundry room with washing machines tumble dryers and irons available.

The site has two communal areas; one with a television and one without. There are Tea/Coffee making facilities throughout the and a computer room for residents with internet access.

Staff making a Difference

While the facilities are quite impressive, it’s the dedication and commitment of the staff that ensures each day runs smoothly and the residents feel at home.

The ethos of the service is one of harm reduction. Controlled drinking of alcohol is permitted within the accommodation. Each resident will enter a support planning process with a support worker. This reduces the myriad of harms associated with street drinking and can give the residents a chance to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume on a daily basis.

Patrick and Andy’s compassion for the residents was clear when he spoke about the issues they face. The staff team’s desire to reduce harm while promoting independence and ensuring everyone’s dignity has been the driving force behind the service. Both Andy and Patrick have worked at the service for decades and have dedicated their working lives to the men they are working to support. They are model examples of the kind of staff in the homelessness sector who make such a difference every day.

As Mark and I walked about the site with Patrick, he spoke of residents past and present with such warmth and care. We walked past walls covered with photos of residents, a noticeboard in the games room sporting framed pictures of the first residents over 50 years ago.  We walked into the courtyard and spoke to a few residents who had gathered there. The sun was shining, and everyone was in good form. You could see the mutual respect and regard they had for Patrick and each other.

As we were leaving lunch was being served and it smelled delicious! Both staff and residents made their way down to the dining room as Mark and I bade our farewells.

I would like to thank the wonderful staff at the House in the Wells for accommodating our visit.

If you would like to find out more about the good work they do, check out the Apex website and give them a follow on Twitter and LinkedIn


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