Folkestone haven – Supporting and Enabling the community
The Folkestone Haven is an initiative set up to support anyone who is in a self-defined mental health crisis. Anyone can use the service; if you are in distress, living with anxiety, or known to the local mental health trust and on the edge of relapse. The Folkestone Haven is a face-to-face, telephone and online support network. Gayle Lowery-Jones spoke to Folkelife about the service.
Hestia – life beyond crisis
“I am the Regional Manager of Operations for Hestia which has been supporting people in crisis for 50 years. We work across the South East, enabling people to recover from crisis in their lives. It could be anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. The Folkestone Haven is there for anyone who may never have used a mental health service before, you might not even know that services exist. But if you are suffering, worried or anxious and feeling that you are not able to cope, then that’s what we’re here for.
“We have a personal service that is open at evenings, weekends and bank holidays, and it’s based at the Rainbow Centre in Folkestone. We are open when the Rainbow Centre is shut, and offering services to anyone, not just people associated with homelessness. There is also an online and phone service for people to contact us via that route too. “
safety, trust and resilience
The Folkestone Haven has trained staff and volunteers who are there to help people de-escalate from their situation. “We aim for people to feel as safe as possible, to trust us, and to talk to us about what’s going on for them at the moment. We have a range of tools and interventions that help you think about how to manage your own mental health better in the future. Building on strengths and using their own self-resilience to self-manage the situations they’re in.”
The whole aim of the service is to prevent people needing to reuse it on a long term basis. By developing the strategies to cope, people will be able to manage their situations and avoid significant levels of distress and crisis in the future.
L found herself needing to use the service. With the Covid crisis she realised she was becoming a recluse and had anxiety issues. A member of the community came to check on her and told her of the service.
L: “I didn’t realise I could use The Haven without being referred by a doctor. My friend was with me when I called them to tell them about my situation. They came with me to The Haven as they had space to see me that same evening. The place feels very safe, and the tables are spaced out for people’s privacy. The people there are extremely welcoming and have so much patience. We had a coffee and a chat and I was able to stay as long as I needed to”
“I went back the next day, and visited frequently over the following week. The staff encourage you by listening to you, but also giving you practical help too. She helped me to make a list of practical steps to improve my situation. Once you feel more comfortable, the staff space out your visits so you don’t become dependent on the service. But you’re able to ring them whenever you need, and check in with them to let them know you are ok.
“Tonight I’m going to an art class they’re holding. They have other classes such as yoga too. I’m looking forward to being creative again. I used to draw a lot as a child but stopped when I became a ‘responsible adult’. It’s funny, I thought you shouldn’t do that sort of thing as an adult but I can see now that it’s really important to have creativity in my life.”
“Examples of tools we’ll be using are mood diaries, safety plans, wellness plans; all things that allow people to take ownership around their mental health. Also though, it’s about working this out together. There are trained staff and volunteers on hand to help. We hope that in the future, people who’ve benefited from the service will return to support others too.
“The support is open access, so you don’t need a referral from your doctor. We’re putting posters around and getting the telephone number and venue out to every avenue we can think of. We’ve reached out to supermarkets, doctors’ surgeries, public areas and so on.”
Out of hours service
“We are open at times when all other services are shut. Come and see us at the Rainbow Centre, 69 Sandgate Road, Folkestone or call us on 07827 533871, if you leave a message, someone will get back to you. We are there from Monday to Friday from 1800 to 2300. We’re also open on weekends and bank holidays between 1200 and 2300, 365 days a year”
The Folkestone Haven was an initiative led by the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust. There had been instances in the harbour and Creative Quarter of people being witnessed in distress at times when most support services short of emergency were closed.
In collaboration with the Kent Community Foundation, other charities joined to support a pilot project in Folkestone for a place of refuge and support in Folkestone on holidays, weekends and evenings. The Henry Oldfield Foundation, the Lawson Trust and the Crown Charitable Fund committed to a three year pilot. This was initiated in partnership with the NHS who increasingly appreciated the value of early intervention through the Haven as did the Police.
Hestia were commissioned to run the project which they did very effectively. The NHS have taken on the project in 2023 and extended Hestia to run the centre for the coming year.