RAPt’s new fundraising team visits The Bridges in Hull, in the company of trustees David Bernstein and Louise Gibbings. The Bridges, run by a dedicated team from RAPt, is the only residential community rehabilitation centre in the UK specifically designed for supporting ex-offenders.
First on the agenda for the visit is to meet The Bridges’ Fundraising Advisory Group (FAG), a highly committed and talented bunch who raise funds to support the running costs of the project, which is also funded by fee-paying referrals from local authorities. With unbounded enthusiasm, members of the group organise garden parties, host quiz nights, and run sponsored races, all for the cause of The Bridges.
Later, sharing lunch with residents of the Bridges, it’s clear why the FAG members devote their time and energies to the cause: “These guys seriously know what they’re doing,” say residents about the staff. “This place saved my life,” is a humbling phrase I hear again and again. The Bridges is home for up to 24 weeks for people completing the 12-step abstinence programme and related therapies – 70% complete the treatment compared to a national average of 45%. Some come from as far away as London.
Men like Sammy, 4 weeks into his treatment and already thinking of the future and what he might do when he gets back to London. RAPt’s merger partner, Blue Sky, I tell him, might help in getting him a job. And John, who completed a RAPt programme at HMP Brixton and now continues his treatment at the Bridges, having been met at Hull station by a Bridges Apprentice and brought to his new temporary home.
After lunch we visit the ReNew project, an end to end community substance misuse service run by CGL in partnership with RAPt. The service combines detox and crisis intervention (run by CGL) with a longer programme of recovery (run by RAPt). Andy, the RAPt’s Team Leader, shows us around the centre. It’s a bright, cheerful, hugely welcoming environment. There are bowls of fresh fruit and jugs of water on tables. There’s a children’s play area and swap shop ‘pods’ for clothes, books and toys. There are motivational quotes and messages on the wall, many written by service users themselves. Recovery is so visible here and Andy explains that it really helps that many of the people running the treatment sessions are in long-term recovery themselves. Their dedication, professionalism, insight and empathy is palpable. “They’re much in demand, my staff, from other organisations” says Andy, “but they like it here.”
We meet some of ReNew’s current service users, who share their stories. Geoff talks about the sense of belonging he feels within the service. “Throughout my life, I’ve always felt like an outsider,” he says, “which is why I’ve always taken to drink. But this place embraced me, made me feel what it’s like to be on the inside.” Janet too talks of belonging and her new sense of purpose – she’s now studying and will be off shortly to take a mock exam. And finally, Jack, who attends the service with his partner, also a life-long addict. Such is the transformation in their lives and their sense of hope in the future, that they recently had a child together. Jack talks about the process of treatment but struggles to find the words: “To be honest with you, at times, I’m not sure what’s going on in my head with these sessions, but it works. The best way I can describe it, is that it’s magic.”
Not denying the immense professionalism and evidence-based methods that underpins the work of my colleagues in Hull, I can’t but echo Jack’s sentiment. Magic Hull.
Names of participants have been changed to protect their identity.