Chooselife is not the drug problem: Alan Andrews

A PETITION calling for the relocation of a drug rehabilitation charity in Llanelli has been presented to the county council.

178 signatures were collected in support of the petition which called on the council to relocate Chooselife to alternative accommodation away from its present base at Copperworks Road in Llanelli.

Petitioners said they were concerned at the proximity of the charity to a new primary school being built in the area.

Presented by Vanessa March, chair of the Glanymor and Tyisha Safer Communities Action Group, the petition read: “We the undersigned call upon the Carmarthenshire County Council to exercise its paramount duty to safeguard and protect children by relocating the Charity Chooselife to suitable alternative accommodation.  The present location of Chooselife immediately adjacent to the new infants and junior school in Copperworks Road is unacceptable and dangerous as hundreds of children will be walking to school along Copperworks Road on a daily basis. The close location of both facilities is incompatible and one must move. Due to the investment already committed by the County Council, this must be Chooselife.”

Whilst the building occupied by Chooselife is not in council ownership, the petition will be considered by the council’s executive board.

To watch the full debate and access the agenda documents about this discussion at Full Council, visit the council and democracy section of the council’s website – www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales

Responding to the petition recently publicised in the press Alan Andrews said:

“I have seen it to be honest that is what they do. If you knock a door and ask if you want a drugs centre in the area of course they are going to say no.

“We are not saying we will not move but we believe we are in the ideal location. We have paid for a 20 year lease.

Addicts and former addicts say the centre is essential in the area

They say that needles have been found on the site of the new school. Our clients are not throwing needles on the site. It is people in the area who are not using our service. People are mistaking Chooselife as the drug problem. I get frustrated with people discarding needles and walking down the street with beer cans. The area has a reputation and has had so for 35 years. I had a message today from someone who I will not name but they said: ‘This is the highest form of NIMBYISM we have seen’.

There is no point putting us in an area they (the service users) don’t live in. Most of ours are from Glanymor and Tyisha.

“The centre has to be accessible and many of our service users haven’t been in criminal justice system and need confidentiality. We can’t be in middle of town. The Police have said that we were prepared to move. They were told we don’t want them in the area. Why move a service away from the needs of the people.

“I respect those 178 people but how many if approached even if a pub was coming three doors down would say that they object. There were objections to housing for veterans and that went to appeal. People object to what they don’t understand. This constant accusation is driven by a few people. They know who they are. It is a vendetta and even if we move they will still say we don’t want them to exist as an organisation.

“If this were an inner city they would welcome us. We don’t have an adult hostel in Llanelli yet we see people lining up to say pity the homeless. You need services not pity. If someone spends time at our centre for that time they were not taking drugs, causing problems or harm in the community.

Providing a square meal every day: Chooselife staff

“The top police officer in Carmarthenshire Mark Collins has supported us. If we were drug dealing would he be doing that?

“I wasn’t surprised at the hatred when you did the video of Chooselife at Christmas. I get it every day. People like to criticise. People putting others down to make them feel better. I don’t like it when they bring my family into it.

“I have messaged everyone saying I appreciate your point of view. They don’t even like the way I say it. I like people with an opposite view. I like to change perceptions but they don’t come. The problems are being fuelled by specific people.

“The Exec board would be welcome here. I would love to introduce them to people and show them what we are trying to do.

“They can ask whatever they like. Come and meet people and hear about the difference Chooselife is making in their lives. We cant reach everyone and people have a relapse. We can’t change everyone’s life but if we can minimise the harm to community great. But we have people who have changed their lives around. Mark James the CEO has done nothing other than honour the work we have done over the years.”

Alan Andrews provided a piece of material the petitioners may not have seen, which was as a result of two police officers  who attended the centre undercover for two weeks. Their decision was that not only was there no drugs dealing taking place but they congratulated Alan Andrews on the work he was doing at the centre.

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