Broadway, the Old Theatre Hostel
The Old Theatre Hostel encompasses 12 studio flats whose residents have been consistently evicted from other supported housing due to their high level of anti-social behaviour.
Each resident agrees their own house rules with the hostel staff that address the specific reasons for eviction from other supported housing. Residents start to take responsibility for their behaviour and begin to feel empowered because they are involved in negotiating the rules they abide by. Residents are also given a small budget for soft furnishings so they can invest in their 'home'.
Shortlisted 2011: received £2,000 prize money
Home and school life growing up in early 1970s Fulham was “all pretty normal” for Diane, until that is, she reached the age of 11 years-old. “That was when I got introduced to the gear. It was just haywire after that, mental”.
Diane says she just decided to try heroin because a classmate had some, and having tried it, she found that she liked it. A lot. It was a decision that was to shape much of her adult life. “My teenage years, well they just weren’t, do you know what I mean? From 11 I didn’t really do school. I was put in one of those units for kids who get kicked out of school for a while. Then when I was about 14 I ran away to Scotland with a mate. I stayed there for a couple of years. I came back to London after that and by then I was selling gear to fund my habit.”
Today, at the age of 49, Diane is nearing the completion of a drug rehabilitation order (DRO), and in her own words, “clean for the first and only time since I was 11." Diane is a firm believer in taking and sticking by her own decisions. She doesn’t blame anybody for getting into drugs.
“Nothing drastic ever happened to me as a kid or anything, I can’t say that. You know, I took drugs because I liked them.”
Similarly, despite spending most of the past four decades in and out of trouble, courts, prison, eviction, losing contact with her four children for 17 years, self-harming, hospital, hostels and drug busts, she doesn’t harbour regrets. “I don’t regret my life. I regret not bringing my kids up, but that’s the only thing. Obviously, if someone said to me, ‘right, you’ve got a choice about how to live your life again’ then I wouldn’t choose that way again, but there’s no point in crying over spilt milk. I met a lot of good people and I met a lot of bad people. It happens. Drugs happen to a lot more people than people realise.” Just as she accepts full responsibility for her decision to take drugs, and the consequences it brought her, so she has equal ownership of her decision to stop. “I’d been taking drugs for 36 years - but one day I just woke up and thought: I’ve had enough. I had a court case at the time and the judge said you can go to rehab or you can go to prison for 18 months. I just didn’t want to go into rehab, I mean it’s all very well spending a few months by the seaside, but the fact is you have to come back.”
Diane persuaded the judge to allow her to undergo community rehab under the supervision of probation services (she is drug tested twice a week and attends Blackfriars Crown Court every six weeks for review) and has been clean since April of last year. Even drug-free, getting her life back on track is a hard process. She is currently resident in Broadway’s Old Theatre hostel in Hammersmith. The Old Theatre is made up of 12 self-contained studio flats, all of whose residents have been evicted from other forms of supported housing, often due to their anti-social behaviour. By setting out to engage specifically with those residents who have failed in other services or who fail to engage, the Old Theatre eschews standard hostel practices such as written warnings and eviction for bad behaviour in favour of very individual and flexible approaches based around talking, cooling off and addressing behaviour. The hostel staff have all received bespoke training in dealing with conflict situations and any incidents are discussed in support and supervision sessions with the twin aims of keeping staff safe and finding ways forward for very vulnerable clients.
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