Kilcreggan Homes in Carrickfergus began in the 1980's when a group of people inspired by the idea of Supported Living as developed by John O'Brien in the US decided to provide an alternative to the existing accommodation for adults with a learning disability. Following years of development, Kilcreggan first opened its doors to tenants in 1991 for supported living in Northern Ireland.
The support provided by Kilcreggan Homes is person centred. The support teamwork closely with tenants to enable the individual person to fully participate in all aspects of their own lives. Tenants are encouraged and enabled to contribute in a meaningful way to their local community and to understand their rights, as well as their responsibilities.
The small urban farm owned by Kilcreggan provides opportunities for Kilcreggan tenants, as well as other service users on day placement, to develop skills in animal care and horticulture. Training provided on the farm develops employability skills and teamwork. The farm provides a tranquil place where tenants, service users and members of the local community can meet and socialise.
Kilcreggan works closely with other agencies including Oaklee Housing Association, our Landlords and the local Social Services department in providing supported living in Northern Ireland for tenants.
Kilcreggan Homes was the idea of John Kensal, a social worker who went on to become a lecturer in social work at the University of Ulster. He then moved to Scotland and became the Director of Key Housing, a housing project for people with learning disabilities. His idea was to provide for relatively more able people as he had identified a need for accommodation for them. His vision was to respect and foster their individuality and to encourage them to live as independently as possible
In 1983 an informal meeting was convened by John Kelsall and his wife Pat at which Dr. Oliver Shanks, Consultant Psychiatrist, Muckamore Hospital was present in a voluntary capacity was elected chairman. The first formal meeting of Kilcreggan Homes was held on 13 August 1984.
Initially the plan was to create small developments of 3-4 flats with “warden supervision”. Nih Housing Association was a partner from the start, the later amalgamated with other housing associations to become Oaklee Housing Association, our current partners. The project was prompted by the community care agenda pioneered in Sweden and in isolated parts of the United States. (Wolfensberger “Social Role Valorisation” 1983 [ Wikipedia])
John Kelsall drafted a design brief for architects. It reads in part as follows:
The first plans were for three one-person flats, three two person flats (one with a double bedroom) and one three person flat.
The intervening years were spent in securing Kilcreggan Homes' status as a Limited Company and Registered Charity and also in obtaining a site. Several sites were looked at and rejected, including Elizabeth Avenue which had first been mentioned as a possibility ip. .1985. However a double site was eventually obtained at Elizabeth Avenue. The first sod was cut on 1st June 1990 by Alderman James Brown. Building commenced shortly after this. First residents moved in on 27 August 1991. In spite of the layout mentioned, each person had their own bedroom. By then John Kelsall had left Northern Ireland and the project was managed by Ken Moore.
The official opening by Alderman William Haggan, Mayor of Carrickfergus, took place 18 February 1992.
Our third manager, Miriam Kelly, introduced the concept of Personal Centred Plans which were managed by Mr Alan Vincent. At the time this was a very innovative concept. Ms Kelly also started Kilcreggan Urban Farm on land adjacent to Kilcreggan, generously leased to us by Carrickfergus Council. This enabled tenants to have an alternative to attending a Day Centre. At this time too, Oaklee Housing assisted us to build 4 bungalows for the most able of our tenants to move on to. Kilcreggan also bought a semi-detached house across the road from the main site again to accommodate more able tenants.
Our fourth manager, Deborah Black, built on the principle of Supported Living in Northern Ireland which led to a visible improvement in the lives of the tenants in that they became noticeably more confident and able to participate in more fulfilling lives. A few of them obtained employment with the assistance of Triangle Housing Association. Mrs Black also initiated a much needed administrative structure to cope with increasing bureaucracy. She and Mr Ernie Spence computerised the company's accounts.