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Thousand year-old Catholic charity creates new opportunities for men recovering from addiction

Sun 16 Jun 2019
By Ruth Sax

Thanks to a 1,006-year-old Roman Catholic charity, British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in partnership with The Nehemiah Project in South London has created new opportunities for men recovering their life from addiction.

The Nehemiah Project was founded in 1996. It provides a place to live and support for men with a history of addiction.



Most are re-entering society after a prison sentence. The charity has opened a new home in Croydon, on 13th June. It is the first new premises in 18-years, and it has been made possible with the support of the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

The Order is one of the oldest institutions of western civilisation. It is a lay religious order which works around the world with a large number of medical, social and humanitarian projects. It is active in 120 countries, and it has permanent observer status at the UN.

 “It’s an unexpected partnership,” admits Nehemiah’s Chief Executive, Dr John Patience. “We were recommended to the Order by Mons. Roger Reader who is a Catholic priest and a prison chaplain whose vision was to see men supported beyond prison. He’d seen what we were achieving and commended us to them.”

The Sovereign Order of Malta are committed to ‘upholding human dignity and caring for people in need.’ A key current focus is on prisoners and former prisoners.

They were impressed by the rehabilitation work of The Nehemiah Project that they have chosen to discharge this aspect of their work in the UK by financially supporting Nehemiah’s work.

 “It’s fantastic news and it gives us an unprecedented opportunity to grow our work around the country,” said Dr. Patience. 

 He added that, in spite of the very different ages and origins of the two organisations, they have a much shared commitment to care for the vulnerable.

 “As more people have seen our work and achievements, our support has keeps growing. It’s great to be working with Christians from a wide range of traditions, along with people of other faiths and no faith at all.”

There is a good success rate for men who complete the Nehemiah’s rehabilitation programme, only 5 per cent of the men who completed the programme in the last five years, year on year, are known to have returned to prison. This compares with a national average of nearly 50 per cent of released prisoners re-offending within just 12 months

The charity offers a two stage process, which seeks to see them breaking the cycle of addiction and re-integrating themselves back into society – planning and preparing new futures for themselves with education, training and mentoring. 

The programme is abstinence-based, with a zero tolerance policy on drink or drugs. Residents spend between one and two years with Nehemiah – the first stage at a rehabilitation home, then at a ‘Move On’ house.

The Croydon opening, a six bedroom house, supplements their three existing buildings and further openings are expected to follow.

Dr Patience said: “Our passion is seeing men’s lives transformed; we have been providing this support for over 20 years in South London. But thanks to the Sovereign Order of Malta, we can start to offer this amazing work to the rest of the country.”


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