A Warm Welcome to Basement House

In the beginning…

For anyone who remembers the start of TBRP, they will tell you we began as Calderdale User Forum in 2006, which consisted of a small office at CSMS, and 3 hours of time each week in a dark basement at the YMCA. The facilities were out of date, we had unwelcome, hungry visitors in the kitchen, and the weekly breakfast served about 20 people.

By 2008, we asked ourselves, ‘Were we part of the problem, or were we part of the solution? Could those who got sick in the community, get well in the same community?’ This was the beginning of a massive transformation. TBRP was born and we began to offer a self-help pathway from chaos to recovery. Specifically, we provide structured day programmes aimed to achieve abstinence, support around detoxification, basic support through our Breakfast Club, sober-living housing with therapeutic support 24/7, and we have a team of Community Recovery Organisers who promote recovery and our services to the wider community.

By 2011, we occupied most of the ground floor of the YMCA, and we had worked with over 1900 people, delivering recovery services, residential therapeutic interventions and we were working in partnership with other providers to change the face of provision for people with drug or alcohol problems. Our growth has just been phenomenal.

Throughout this growth, we were pioneering user involvement in Calderdale and were being recognised both regionally and nationally for our unique services. But at the same time we were fighting a battle to provide inspiration to others, in a venue that couldn’t reflect our ambitions. We just had to have a space that epitomised recovery.

In August 2011 we purchased a building in the town centre, – to provide a ‘recovery centre’ for the Calderdale area. We believe the visible promotion of this recovery ‘hub’ will help to inform targeted community development, which in turn will help to build the necessary assets and empower locally driven community solutions, thus building solutions that are co-produced and thereby more sustainable. The fabric of the property is of a high specification and, as our organisation is an ‘asset-based, community development model’, we will extend the use of the building to other community groups. However, the building requires renovation to make it fit-for-purpose. Moreover, we intend to develop the building to incorporate live-in accommodation for a caretaker who will provide the extensive opening hours we wish to offer people in recovery.

Why do we need this Hub?

As we have evolved from a peer led drop-in, into a provider of peer-based recovery support, we believe the next strategic step is to develop a ‘grassroots’ centre offering vital and meaningful services anchored in the heart of the community. Having taken the first steps in forming a recovery community, the next step is to ‘organise’ the community. We hope to demonstrate to the area and the wider community that people in recovery do exist; we hold jobs, pay taxes, raise families and have a voice. The Hub will provide just such a place and act as an exemplar for those who are still engaged in alcohol and /or drug misuse and their families in terms of what is achievable.

Recovery Communities are described as:

  1. Recovery oriented sanctuaries anchored in the hearts of communities
  2. Physical locations where local communities of recovery can be organised
  3. Places where recovery support services are designed, tailored and delivered by local recovery communities
  4. Offering living proof that recovery is a reality in the life of our community
    (White, W., 2008)

It has been noted that TBRP have come some way to creating this environment. ‘In essence, the Basement is the hub for a network of structured recovery opportunities and activities in Halifax. The project is about establishing a recovery culture and to improve the opportunities for individuals to sustain recovery by effective community engagement. The key principle is around creating belief that recovery is possible and providing the foundations for building personal and social capital based on a strong foundation of communities of recovery……There are considerable grounds for hope in Calderdale – there is a sense of energy and dynamism in the recovery community – the emergence of both Basement and Conn3ct have ensured a key sense of hope and contagion – but the infra-structure does not yet exist to sustain this’. (Best, D., 2010). This centre will take us further.

Contributors

To date, TBRP have financed Basement House with their own fundraising activities. It’s been an on-going struggle, and as anyone who has carried out such a venture will testify, unforeseen problems such as leaking roofs, inherited exorbitant utility charges are just a few of the additional expenses that we have had to meet. From the founders view, every £1 spent on administration or service charges is a breakfast for someone hungry. So we have worked hard to make every penny count. The contractors have been a god-send and have worked amazingly within tight budgets to produce the wonderful space we have today. Our army of volunteers in recovery have worked alongside the contractors and we cannot thank them enough. The benefit of this approach is that everyone feels a sense of ownership in the new community hub, and we are also proud of the way our contractors and volunteers have come together and learnt from each other, about the different trades, about recovery and about trust and understanding of the people who are affected by addiction.

We would like to extend special thanks to Nigel, Simon, and Andrew from the contracting team, and Francis, Clayton, Graham, Ray, Paul and Alan from our team of volunteers. They have worked in the dark, in the cold, and they have shown the spirit of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, even as the project manager has been barking out orders and squeezing budgets and deadlines.

We would also like to thank the Community Foundation for Calderdale, who through their local-giving initiative has made our money work twice as hard to lay the foundations of our flagship recovery hub, Basement House.

The Board
The Basement Recovery Project

basementhouse-afterpic3Basement House was officially opened on 1st June 2012 by Christa Ackroyd of BBC’s Look North.

We first met Christa at last years Halifax Neighbours Day where she showed interest in our project. On leaving, she said “If there is anything I can do to help…” Thanks Christa for taking time out of your busy schedule and for speaking so highly of the work we do. We look forward to meeting you again on the famous Look North couch!.

 

Carl Cundall of Sheffield Alcohol Support Service had this to say:

“I had the pleasure of attending the official opening yesterday of The Basement Project Recovery Centre in Halifax. I have visited similar projects in England, Scotland and Wales and TBRP team have absolutely stonewall nailed it.

Walking into TBRP the first things I see are beautiful bright colours, lots of black leather sofas dotted around. The main part of this massive open space is flooded with bright sunshine revealing even more of the attention to detail and love that has gone in to transforming this from an empty space into a Recovery Centre fit for the queen.
You may think we don’t need a beautiful space to initiate recovery and you would be right. TBRP and many others have been working their magic in cramped working conditions for years.

I have spent time in lots of different institutions that smelt of pubs and wormwood scrubs and desperation, waiting and meeting rooms that resemble a prison cell; dark, cold, HIV and Safeguarding Children posters on the walls reinforcing desperation, loneliness and fear. Basement House is as far away from this experience as is humanly possible.

This space smells of flowers, fresh paint, fresh coffee, respect, hope and opportunity – The smell of recovery.

Walking into the main entrance made me feel relaxed, warm and a little bit jealous. This is somewhere I would happily invite my Mam to meet me for a coffee.

Michelle and Stuart and all the team, you have done a brilliant job and it was great to celebrate this achievement yesterday with friends. I was proud to walk into your recovery centre and would feel the same if a loved one of mine needed help and support.”

 

 

And Mark Gilman – NTA Recovery Lead commented:

“Back in 2005, we dreamt of 150 systems (one for each local authority area) that would combine clinical treatment and social recovery. Seven years on we have all learnt so much more and real progress has been made and is being made. Clinical treatment is more evidence based. We are challenging and supporting each other to establish social recovery communities so that people can get well where they got sick and live right where they lived wrong. In some places people are now living the recovery dream. Basement House and TBRP are one of the places where you can go and physically connect with recovery.

Along with The Brink In Liverpool, Langan’s Tea Rooms in Burton on Trent and The Meeting Place in Lowestoft, Basement House is a high specification recovery sanctuary right in the heart of the Calderdale community. My personal test of any service is very simple. Would I use these services myself or take my loved ones there. Basement House and TBRP pass this test with flying colours. It’s not only the high specification of Basement House that is different. I have been in drug and alcohol service premises that also have high specifications but still didn’t feel ’right’. I have been in dark and damp rooms where the recovery vibe was so powerful it transformed the place into a palace. The high specification in Basement House is fantastic and to be warmly welcomed but for me it’s the people, it’s always the people.

My first degree was in the Study of Organisations. One of my tutors liked to suggest that before we went on our final organisational placement we visited to “get a feel for the place”. The suggestion was that after only a short time you went to the bathroom and wrote yourself a postcard about your impressions of the place. The card was to be placed in an envelope, posted to yourself and only opened on graduation day. Very rarely did the conclusions of a 20,000 word dissertation differ from the impressions jotted on the postcard. Here is my postcard from Halifax to anyone who hasn’t yet been to Basement House and TBRP: “Do yourself a favour – come see, hear and touch recovery at its attractive and infectious best. This is a place where positivity lives and breathes. Come in and soak yourself in well being.”

A selection of before and after pictures:

Article featured in RecoveryTimes Issue 3

See the full transformation of Basement House on our About page