'Appalling' conditions seen once again in some Weston dry houses 10 years after crackdown, councillors say
PUBLISHED: 06:55 26 March 2018
'Horrific scenes' in Weston-super-Mare's dry houses - which are supposed to help people in recovery from drugs and alcohol - are being repeated again, 10 years after a major crackdown, it has been alleged.
Vulnerable people are said to be paying £100 a week to live in ‘appalling’ conditions in some of the town’s dry houses, and are not always getting the support they need to stay clean and sober.
Weston Town Council has called on police to relaunch an investigation similar to Operation Jupiter, which targeted unregistered treatment centres and poor-quality accommodation for those in recovery around 10 years ago.
Councillors fear people may have suffered from abuse, and say some dry houses should be ‘blacklisted’.
The town council’s plea for help from police comes as part of its investigation into deprivation in Weston town centre, and the causes of health inequalities. The conditions in some of Weston’s dry houses need to be re-investigated, according to town councillors.
Cllr Richard Nightingale, who is leading the town council’s working party investigating deprivation in the centre of Weston, said: “Dry houses offer so-called supported accommodation for people in recovery. It is very clear from the town council’s work that in some cases, they don’t.
“Operation Jupiter was 10 years ago, which uncovered some horrific scenes in dry houses. I would ask the town council to write to Avon and Somerset police to start the operation up again.
“Some of these premises are operated well but others are not and offer standards of accommodation which are appalling.
“Although the exact number is unknown, I estimate there may be more than 50 individual dry houses in the area, serving hundreds and hundreds of very vulnerable individuals who have relocated to our town from all over the country.
“I fear this may be Weston’s perfect storm, if the growth and demand continue while standards remain unchecked.”
Cllr Nightingale said in one case, a man found his friend had overdosed and called for an ambulance. When a support worker found out, they said the man should ‘let him die’.
Cllr Catherine Gibbons said there was no monitoring of dry houses.
She added: “I would like to see North Somerset Council be more proactive and blacklist some of these places. There are people being abused.
“People get out of rehab, a great deal of good work is done by (drug treatment charity) Addaction and other services, and it all becomes undone because people are left to fend for themselves in accommodation not fit for purpose.”
An Addaction spokesman said dry houses are a stepping stone back to independent living and give vulnerable people somewhere to go which has not got drugs and alcohol around, and is not living homeless on the streets.
They added: “As with all supported or rented accommodation standards can vary, and part of that is to do with there being no national standards to adhere to or targeted funding available.
“Addaction has no connection with any particular supported housing provider, but we know our clients deserve high quality support to help them get back on their own feet and a key part of that support is a safe roof over their heads.”