Alcoholics allowed to brew their own beer at addictions program

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Every day, on the hour, almost two-dozen alcoholics line up at a facility in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada for a beer, or a glass of wine.

It’s a Wesley Urban Ministries facility, for their managed alcohol program, known as the “Harold E. Ballard Special Care Unit.”

It’s one of a handful of Canadian programs that gives a regulated, hourly dose of alcohol to alcoholics to help manage their addiction. Controversy follows these kinds of programs, as it seems counter-intuitive to some – but it’s a lifeline that helps people get their lives back on track, says Daljit Garry, the Executive Director of Wesley Urban Ministries.

Lucia Ali monitors 'The Pour,' the hourly distribution of a prescribed dose of alcohol dictated by the in-house nurse at the Oaks, a residence for stabilized alcoholics in Ottawa. A Similar program has been running in Hamilton for 10 years.

“It’s new to some people, and unfortunately carries some controversy,” she said. “But this is a safe place. It’s a safe place to start your journey.

“And everyone deserves a home.”

Wesley’s program is actually one of the oldest of its kind, having opened up ten years ago. Back then, there were only two other managed alcohol programs in the country.

Since then, the unit has flown under the radar — but each year, an average of 42 people move through its doors. “We’ve been very low key,” Garry said.

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