Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Drugs, Sex and Despair in My Rural Idyll

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Drugs, Sex and Despair in My Rural Idyll

Article excerpt


A DROP-IN centre for the young homeless, where you find drug addicts and girls of 14 who are pregnant by their drug pushers might sound a rather bleak institution, but it is a place of extraordinary optimism. The teenagers say it is lovely to have somewhere to go where they are not judged and made to feel different.

Many have fallen off the straight and narrow for the smallest of reasons.

One lad had had a row with his mother's boyfriend. He spent one night away from home, sleeping in a garage forecourt, and thought he could do one more night.

But he was found by a drug dealer, who said: "I understand what it's like.

I'll look after you," and took him off to buy a burger. And it has taken him six years to clean himself up.

He's about 22, though he looks 35, which is the effect heroin has had. He felt he regained some dignity at the centre in Gloucester. He was clever, anyone could see that.

He was doing some further education - he thought you could make good money as a plumber.

This is the sort of charitable project supported by Gloucestershire Community Foundation, which I have been involved with for about a decade.

Community foundations are an American idea, and have been around there for about 100 years. They came into being as a solution for a country that didn't have a welfare state.

Their purpose was to plug the gaps and supply the warmth in any community for the disadvantaged. We took the idea from the Americans and as our welfare state gets ever more threadbare the foundations have become very important.

Every county has one, as do some urban areas such as Tyne and Wear.

The aims are to attract private charities and build up an endowment fund from which to make grants to local charitable organisations.

Because they know where the need is, they can make grants and administer funds that would otherwise get wasted or dissipated.

There are funds for people who want to give money for a particular purpose - say, for village football pitches - and they also help the business community.

Businesses are besieged with charitable requests and it is difficult to choose what to do. …

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