A charity run by a former drug taker who has dedicated the last 15 years of her life to helping homeless people in has received a top award.
ARC – Achieving Recovery in the Community – was the recipient of the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner’s Outstanding Achievement Award at a ceremony at the Kinmel Manor Hotel.
Commissioner Arfon Jones made the presentation to Ruth Cole who founded the organisation six years ago but whose own work with the homeless and the addicted goes back much further.
ARC, which operates centres in Colwyn Bay and Rhyl, runs open access drop-in services for people who are homeless or suffer with serious substance misuse and provides a route back to stability and independent living within the community.
Ruth, 50, from Abergele, said: “My background is in developing services for the homeless but I had been involved in the drugs scene myself and was a single mother and had really struggled to find support but I did have an amazing family.
“I had troubled teens and early 20s and went off the rails and there was no help but I came through it and ended up going to university and getting a degree in criminology and sociology.
“I threw all my energies then into being a good role model but those times did give me an insight into how people do go off the rails and the problems they face.
“I am a woman of faith, a Christian, and even if people are down and out they do need to be loved.
“But I am a practical woman so my faith is expressed in what I do rather than trying to preach to people – it’s about my actions. That’s where I come from.
ARC’s drop-in centres are at the Dewi Sant Centre in Rhyl and St David’s Church in Colwyn Bay and in addition to the services they provide, including meals, washing facilities and clothing, the organisation also runs the Roofless night shelter in Rhyl .
They also operate the Conwy food bank last year bought two buildings in the Penmaenmawr area which are being converted into a drug rehabilitation centre.
Other services include a work club to help people back into employment, an anger management programme, a prison bus, an outside catering business staffed by volunteers and rehabilitated service users.
Ruth, herself, often works in the kitchens and actually gained a catering qualification at Llandrillo College and before starting ARC she had worked with other organisations involved in looking after homeless people including two years with the North Wales Probation Service.
She added: “I love developing services for people that otherwise wouldn’t have a voice or a say and I find my work very rewarding.
“Our participants and volunteers share in the company and shape the way ARC works. It’s an organisation that’s being built out of need and driven forward by the people who need it themselves.
“Local services are improving too and are getting to grips with it so we have fewer homeless people than we did back in 2003 when we would have 70 to 80 people a day at our drop-in centre in Rhyl.
“The figure now is half that and housing providers and other services have improved and there’s a lot of good work going on.”
Arfon Jones said: “I went to see the work ARC carry out and was impressed by what they do to support homeless people including those with substance misuse problems and mental health issues.
“Ruth has dedicated her career to supporting and rehabilitating people struggling with drug and alcohol dependency and homelessness and her charity, Arc, has generated projects aimed at helping them back into stable and independent living.
“She has always encouraged close relationships between the police and her staff and service users and without those drop-in centres those struggling with substance misuse and homelessness would often turn to criminality.”