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Crossfire Trust and McKeever’s Chemist

In the Crosshair – Bring the focus

Crossfire Trust is a registered charity established in 1984 and based at Darkley House, Keady that aims to support people in their community in a practical, non-judgemental way. They have an ‘any situation through the door’ policy when it comes to helping people including under represented groups, but the main issues they tackle are related to homelessness, reconciliation and community development, poverty and living on the bread line, social isolation, mental health and crisis and emergency situations.

They are grateful to have the support of over 100 volunteers who do amazing work and 3 paid full time and 2 part time employees. Their work is also further supported from the revenue they generate from their social enterprise Something More, their new & pre-loved clothes and accessories shop and community hub based in Crossmaglen. Crossfire Trust also has partnerships with local businesses including ABP Foods, Lidl and Sainsburys, donations and fundraising events, grants and funding awards and the help and support of our local community including the PSNI, NI Probation Board where we provide placements for people on Probation Orders, NI Housing Executive.

Homelessness and poverty are so much more than the lack of money or food – Poverty and homelessness are also loneliness, isolation, deprivation, brokenness and so much more.

All of these things are just as close to each of us as the loss of a job, sickness, breakdown of a marriage, death of a loved one, or abuse, both physical and mental. We also understand that houses can sometimes be shells and not necessarily homes, which can be as cold inside as they are outside. We deal with all of the above, and more, on a daily basis in our own community and also now further afield. Bringing a group together and including the Pharmacist as a member of the group, who will also share stories and chat about their own experiences, means that the relaxed atmosphere rapidly builds trust and intimacy. This allows for a more powerful experience and sensitive sharing of hurts and vulnerabilities, (of which there are many) and this is where the magic happens! People recognise themselves in each other’s’ story and empathy is flowing.

Homelessness comes in many shapes and forms, so, unfortunately, it is difficult to tackle with one direct response. With this in mind we run several projects which separately encompass our principal efforts to welcome, care, provide clean clothing and showering facilities, peer mentoring and support etc.

Crossfire Trust were delighted to participate in the CDHN’s Building Community Pharmacy Partnership. Aine from McKeever’s chemist was a fantastic match with Crossfire Trust. The group (including residents in Crossfire’s temporary accommodation, volunteers, staff and local residents) were quickly put at ease by the personable and accessible approach and expressed appreciation of the opportunity to voice questions and concerns to a health professional. Open conversation in the non-judgemental atmosphere ensued with plenty of laughs, on a wide range of health and social issues of relevance to the participants.

Informal education was delivered and discussed covering subjects such as smoking cessation, addiction, use of over the counter and prescribed medications. Factors that contribute to difficulties making healthy lifestyle changes such as stress, mental health issues, money worries were validated as well as support shared among participants. Group members were advised on sources of support and specialist intervention in the community and made aware of the agency signposting and advice role the local pharmacist can offer.

Participants benefitted from individual consultations with the pharmacist regarding health issues and prescribed medications. Several accessed treatments for minor ailments and availed of the ear health / micro suction service offered during the course.

I have greater confidence in asking my local pharmacist for help now that I know all they can do - Crossfire Trust Participant

This has been invaluable in giving me the confidence to go back to my GP - Crossfire Trust Participant

Links were made with local agencies including Clanrye presenting on their Employ Me programme and Inspire Well-being gave a well-received session on ‘Food and Mood’ complimenting the ethos at Crossfire of preventing food waste and saving money by making use of the onsite community food larder stocked with food goods that would otherwise have been discarded.

The session on Financial Health from Community Advice ABC generated a lot of discussion on the despondency felt by the lack of resettlement options for residents seeking a secure home. Oonagh from Community Advice is kindly returning to Crossfire to do a follow up session on housing options e.g. rent to buy and co-ownership. All the hosted community services expressed how beneficial it was to learn more about Crossfire and be able to sign post appropriately.

The programme promoted cohesion and understanding among the participants as well as increasing awareness of community services available to meet a variety of needs. Due to the positive feedback form participants we are hoping to run the programme again in the autumn.