Slí Eile is a housing association which is affiliated to the Irish Council for Social Housing and provides transitional, supportive housing for people in mental distress.
With three out of four of all admissions to psychiatric units being re-admissions, Slí Eile was set up to explore ways of helping people caught up in this vicious cycle to recover within an accepting and supportive community setting. Joan’s vision for Slí Eile grew out of her long experience as a mother observing her daughter who suffered steady deterioration in the traditional psychiatric system.
The genesis of Slí Eile occurred in January 2001. Joan organised a conference to bring together mental health service users and service providers in order to explore the issues they faced. Over 700 people turned up and it was from their stories and their experiences that Slí Eile was born.
Slí Eile believes the journey to recovery is:
• A re-awakening of hope after despair.
• A movement to active participation in life from withdrawal and isolation.
• A shift to engagement and active coping rather than passive adjustment.
• Reclaiming a positive sense of self.
• A transformation from alienation to a sense of meaning and purpose.
Using Communal Living as a method, Slí Eile works towards supporting tenants in re-integrating back into the community and independent living. This approach to supported housing offers an environment of hope and empowerment, where meaningful activities support the process of recovery for tenants and creates an environment which instills the belief that change is possible.
Following the success of the pilot project at Villa Maria, Charleville, the Slí Eile Farm was established in 2012. The farm presently accommodates seven tenants, with potential for a further five. Tenants are involved in all aspects of running the farm, including milking cows, feeding the calves and pigs and establishing an organic horticulture business. Plans for the farm include opening a weekly farm-gate shop.
Cuisine Slí Eile, in Charleville, has a bakery team which produces brown bread and a variety of cakes and preserves, delivering them to the Charleville community. The new kitchen at Villa Maria was completed in 2010, and facilitates increasing production and widening customer base for the home-baking venture. This in turn brings further interaction between the tenants and the wider community, working to break down the stigma and barriers associated with people who have experienced mental health difficulties.
Joan Hamilton was announced as March 2014's Cork person of the month for her unique work and treatment for those suffering with mental health issues.