Charity hopes move east will help fulfil founder’s aims
An addiction treatment charity has moved its entire operation east, where it hopes to fulfil the ambition of one of the organisation’s founders.
Focus Counselling Services relocated from its Union Street base to “Jerry’s House” on Barry Road in St George’s.
The property was acquired by the charity about 15 years ago and has more recently hosted its supportive residency programme.
Leslie Grant, the charity’s executive director, explained that Jerry Griffiths was in recovery and founded Focus with Sandra Butterfield and others.
He said: “It was definitely the brainchild of Jerry. Jerry was the focal point of getting this property.
“Jerry unfortunately died before the property could come to fruition, in terms of Focus Counselling Services occupying it, and a decision was made to name it after Jerry in his honour and to put a stamp on his legacy and vision.”
Mr Grant added: “The location and exactly where we are allows persons to take a time out.
“It’s a beautiful property, the water’s right there so the guys go fishing and swimming right there.”
He said: “The hope is that we could really make this property do what Jerry intended — create a recovery village. That is, create businesses, create housing and/or residential treatment for women, a community garden — that piece is already in motion.”
Mr Grant said that talks were taking place with community partners, including someone who could provide gardening lessons.
It was earlier thought that the charity, founded in 1993, would keep an office in Hamilton, where it had offered services on Union Street.
But Mr Grant explained: “The foot traffic wasn’t enough to sustain having an employee there five days a week.”
Full-time staff include Gladwyn Johnson, a junior counsellor, and Gary Wellman, a facilities manager.
Roger Trott returned to the organisation this year as a programme manager and a team of independent contractors means that the property is manned around-the-clock every day of the year.
Mr Grant said: “Believe it or not, folks are a lot more receptive to coming to St George’s for treatment than they were coming to Union Street.”
He highlighted the property’s free parking and private location.
Mr Grant said: “We also have a demographic that refused to come to Union Street, for obvious reasons, and now persons are starting to be a bit more comfortable showing up because it takes away all that stigma around location and being seen.”
Mr Trott explained that residential treatment at Focus consists of a six-month programme that includes group therapy and finding solutions to addictive behaviours.
He added: “Towards the end of that programme we support the clients in transitioning to the next phase of our programme, which is the supportive residency.
“As they begin their transition, we look to engage them in volunteer work.
“We are strong believers that if a person isn’t working they need to be volunteering.
“Work is critical. All the research suggests that persons in recovery tend to do better — the outcomes are more positive — when persons are able to work, either through paid work from being employed or through volunteer work.”
Mr Trott said that clients could become involved in activities such as horticulture or painting and added that connections were being made to team up with organisations in St George’s.
He added: “We believe that our clients, when they are able to give back to the community, it gives them a sense of belonging.
“It also helps to break down any stigma that may be attached to their previous lifestyle, which … allows them to be more employable.”
Mr Trott explained: “Our goal is always to facilitate a space whereby they can transition from being on financial assistance to support themselves financially.
“We presently have four persons here who are employed and no longer, at this point, require financial assistance.”
He added: “An important part of what we do is empowering the men to be accountable and responsible when it comes to their life choices.”
Mr Trott said that the charity provided outpatient services such as tailored treatment plans and individual counselling sessions as well as an impaired driving programme.
He added: “We also provide outpatient treatment services for adolescents. That is critical, especially in light of some of the other challenges our adolescents are experiencing.
“It’s common knowledge that a lot of the activity is linked to substance use.”
Mr Grant highlighted the need for donations to help the charity’s work and said that a tag day is planned for September.
He explained: “We’re running at about $650,000 at the moment, which is not easy.
“Ideally, Focus is a $1 million organisation — $900,653 to be exact, is what it would really take.”
Mr Grant added: “That’s fully staffed, properly and fully maintained on a consistent basis.”
He said: “A lot of persons expect a lot from Focus, but we unfortunately don’t see that backed up with donations.”