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Charity launches fundraising drive as it looks to move east

Leslie Grant, executive director, of Focus Counselling Services (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A fundraising drive has been launched by an anti-substance abuse charity as it sets its sights on a move east.

Focus Counselling Services is expected to shift the bulk of its operations from Hamilton to its residential centre in St George’s.

Leslie Grant, the executive director, hoped that about $130,000 could be raised to invest in a solar energy system and to replace air-conditioning units at the property.

Further funding would also be used to boost outpatient services for adults and adolescents — including family support — as well as to develop a plan for the years ahead.

Mr Grant highlighted that Focus intends to keep a space in the city for some of its operations.

He said: “Partially due to the pandemic and the increased need for services, we’re further pivoting to better utilise our resources at our owned property in St George’s.”

Mr Grant said that the lease would end at a premises used by the charity on Union Street next month.

He added: “This will automatically free up quite a bit of funds to focus on putting some energy into the programmes as a whole.”

Mr Grant said: “Our goal is to develop a recovery village. That’s our long-term goal.

“It’s 3.3 acres. We could do quite a bit down there.”

He explained that “should it come to fruition” the project would have a place for women to be included in supported residency programmes, which the charity can only offer to men in its current set-up.

Mr Grant expected that Focus will continue to have a base in Hamilton for assessments, counselling and its feeding programme.

He highlighted that the charity has a vehicle so it could collect people from other parts of the island and transport them to the East End if needed

Mr Grant added: “We are looking at roughly $125,00 to $130,000 that we’re looking to raise.

“That will cover both the replacement of the AC units and the solar.

“Those are our biggest immediate needs. We do have some other small, minor renovation projects.”

A fundraising appeal letter said: “In 2020-2021 Focus Counselling Services provided services for 22 supportive residency clients and over 125 drop-in centre clients.

“We held over 100 group and 85 individual counselling sessions, served 6,584 meals, and offered showers to those in need in our local community.

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Focus Counselling Services has served the community continuously without closing our doors.

“We went above and beyond to serve our community in providing sober housing, feeding, showers, resource management and counselling services.

“In 2020 and 2021, we had to step up to be a liaison and support system for multiple community members to meet their need for community support and mental health needs.”

Mr Grant added that funds raised and saved could also be used for “strategic planning” by hiring an independent consultant to map out the next five years at Focus.

He said: “What we have noticed is that the demographics of those that are asking for help have changed.”

Mr Grant explained: “Professionals are starting to show up, persons with full-time employment are starting to show up.

“There are, for lack of a better way of saying it, more White people seeking services from Focus.

“Traditionally our client was the Black homeless person or unsheltered or under-sheltered — those primarily — so everything has shifted.”

Mr Grant said he did not believe that the coronavirus pandemic had led to new substance-use problems.

He explained: “Most persons that have substance-use disorder already have had it.

“I would suspect there are very few new addicts.”

Mr Grant added: “Covid, because of no work or lack of work, increases the social challenges unfortunately.

“Some people are not hiring, some people have downsized businesses so they’re not able to offer people hustles as often.

“Some of those persons that were actually offering hustles can’t afford to pay themselves … food’s not getting any cheaper, nor is anything else unfortunately.

“The stress of daily living, more than likely, has had that knock-on effect to maybe fuel substance-use disorder.”

He highlighted how Focus helped people.

Mr Grant said: “When our clients leave our programmes, and particularly our supported residency programmes, they are full-time employed, they are able to live independently and have maintained sobriety for a minimum of two years.

“Over the last three years we have transitioned ten people to independent living.”

Mr Grant highlighted that the Bermuda Foundation and the Centennial Bermuda Foundation were “very instrumental” in the charity’s ability to deliver its services over the past three years.

He added that the Department of National Drug Control provided a grant to Focus that helped with its supported residency programme.

* For more information visit focus.bm. Donations can be made at focus.bm/donate-now. To see the Focus Counselling Services brochure, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published March 01, 2022 at 7:50 am (Updated March 01, 2022 at 7:50 am)

Charity launches fundraising drive as it looks to move east

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