Derry City and Strabane District Council has asked DePaul Ireland for an urgent meeting with its directors as the charity reduces the opening hours of a vital city centre service for street drinkers this week from noon to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays and from noon to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
The Foyle Haven service on John Street will be closed completely on Sundays from now on following the cuts.
Ahead of the service reduction, which kicked in on Monday, members of Derry City and Strabane District Council, were advised council officers recently wrote to DePaul Ireland, which runs the service, to seek a meeting with its directors in order to discuss the sustainability of the centre.
Karen McFarland, Director of Health and Communities, revealed the meeting was sought after councillors raised concerns about the service at the council’s monthly meeting for July.
Sinn Féin councillor Sandra Duffy, speaking on Thursday, acknowledged that it looked likely the reduction in services would go ahead as planned this week.
Colr. Duffy said she was keen, however, that a proposed meeting with DePaul Ireland, council officers and other partners involved in Foyle Haven, which was postponed until next month, now goes ahead as planned.
She said she was disappointed that the meeting had had to be deferred until August due to key personnel being on annual leave.
She also said that the reduction of hours at Foyle Haven flew in the face of recent indications from DePaul that there was a recent increase in the use of the key service.
“I understand the difficulties council has had in trying to organise a meeting sooner than August with all the key agencies involved with the Foyle Haven,” she said.
“I do still believe that that meeting is an important one.
“I’m disappointed that the meeting isn’t going to take place.
“Any reduction in service I still have major concerns about.”
SDLP councillor Tina Gardiner concurred, stating: “The danger is with the reduction of hours going ahead on Monday (July 24) it makes it much more difficult to get those hours reinstated.”
Colr. Gardiner also suggested that the council continue to lobby the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) for statutory funding for Foyle Haven in order to ensure its long-term viability.
“We need central funding for Foyle Haven. It needs to be funded in the exact same way the service in Belfast is funded,” said the SDLP councillor.