Open day improves links with local community

Penumbra open day

Dan Mushens examines the importance of charities working closely with the wider community

22nd August 2018 by Gareth Jones 1 Comment

Last month saw the Penumbra ARBD Supported Accommodation service host its annual summer open day. The event gives us the opportunity to raise awareness of alcohol related brain damage to the wider community as well raising funds to go towards items chosen by the residents.

We are a small service based in the socially challenged and economically deprived neighbourhood of Possilpark in the north of Glasgow. But what the area may lack in reputation and desirability, it certainly punches above its weight in terms of community spirit.

In 2008, as part of the Channel 4 show The Secret Millionaire, property tycoon Nick Leslau visited the area and gave away £225,000 to a handful of local community groups and individuals who he described as "society’s real heroes".

Dan Mushens

Dan Mushens

Regarding our own service, we have no signage or identifying features on the exterior of the building, we had always been good at being discreet – quietly blending into the community. This had traditionally been to prevent any stigma by identifying our residents as living in a care home or having an alcohol related illness.

However, when support manager Alison Garrow took over the running of the service three years ago, she soon recognised that being discreet was one thing, but being invisible was another. "No one even knew we were here, not even our colleagues from partner agencies. It was a shame because the staff team does so much good work here and it wasn’t being showcased or recognised."

As a consequence, we now host two open days a year, one during the summer and the other at Christmas time. They’re both informal in nature, but it allows the residents to invite any friends or family, this also contributes towards their own recovery as personal relationships can often be strained for those experiencing alcohol dependency.

The service offers an abstinence based recovery programme lasting around two years, with the long term intention of the person then relocating into their own tenancy to live independently. Preparing the residents for eventual discharge is a key feature during a person’s stay, with an emphasis on promoting self-management skills such as managing healthcare appointments and focusing on appropriate nutrition. We achieve this by using our in-house designed step up programme, a toolkit designed to offer a structure for the road to recovery.

From a service point of view, the open day allows us to invite local businesses and shopkeepers – people who may know the residents and staff by face, without necessarily knowing that we live and work in an ARBD Supported Accommodation service just along the road. Last year, the local post office kindly donated a pool table for our residents to enjoy.

In 2016, Penumbra launched a strategic plan outlining a set of targets and milestones it would like to achieve by 2020. The themes of influence and innovation feature heavily and by hosting these open days we aim to promote social inclusion, as well as a sense of citizenship for the people we support.

In addition, raising awareness of ARBD is a goal that we constantly strive to achieve and for this open day, we invited several influential policy makers. Attendees included Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon and Glasgow North MP Paul Sweeney.

Monica has previously spoken of her experiences of her own father’s battle with alcohol and described our supported accommodation as a vital service for those with ARBD. Paul has a constituency office nearby in Possilpark and said his visit was a really inspiring day.

Overall, the occasion was well attended with a good time had by all - on a day filled with glorious sunshine! Over £100 was raised and the residents have decided to spend it on garden furniture.

Dan Mushens is a recovery practitioner for Scottish mental health charity Penumbra

23rd August 2018 by David Young

Dan has again underlined the need for ongoing care services in traditionally underprivileged urban areas. The open days also serve to highlight this need and the creation of two-year abstinence-based recovery programs reminds us that sobriety, like the building of Rome, isn’t achieved in a day.