Established in 1985, Odyssey House Trust Christchurch has led the way in the local provision of therapeutic treatment and support for people affected by alcohol and drug addiction.
Odyssey House currently hosts 18 programmes and offers support to over 3500 people in Canterbury each year. Services include adult and youth residential programmes, various day programmes, counselling, outreach services and other Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) treatments.
Located at the former Cottesmore College in Greers Road, Christchurch, Odyssey House has continued to innovate by introducing progressive, integrative and collaborative approaches to their treatment programmes.
Of the 18 programmes offered by Odyssey House, perhaps the most intensive is the Adult Residential Programme, in which men working through addiction are offered the opportunity to take part in a 6-12 month, comprehensive, live-in, therapeutic community treatment initiative.
This programme requires the men to commit to residing in the main building on the Odyssey House grounds (working from a starter through to graduation, through making a commitment to recovery.
The progamme's model has a focus of journeying towards individual wellness and has a strong emphasis on facilitating a positive reintegration into the community. The men live together and learn life skills to support themselves in day to day living; are involved in a range of community activities; attend family, group and individual therapies; engage in recreational activities such as running, gardening and art; and learn vocational skills such as carpentry and food preparation.
However, the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 has left the main building at Odyssey House – the place where the men cook, sleep, and undergo their treatments – suffering from considerable earthquake damage.
Odyssey House Fundraising Manager Karen Fordyce said that the  year-old building was beyond economic repair, and was of such an age that operational costs made it highly inefficient to run. Consequently, the Odyssey House Trust Board approved the decision to re-build a single story, 23-bedroom, fully functional dwelling on the Odyssey House site, with building to commence in January 2019.
“From an operational and cost point of view it will provide us with a much more efficient service, so we will be able to manage cost and better invest into the programme,” said Fordyce. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to create a purpose built environment in which Odyssey House can best meet the needs of its clients. “By building a custom-built residence, we get to design the hobby, community and family rooms that will enhance the service,” she said. “This is an opportunity to design exactly what is required.”
As Odyssey House is committed to ensuring continuity of service throughout the re-build, the residents will remain in the current residence until completion of the new building, after which time the former convent will be demolished. Fordyce said that any materials that could be salvaged from the demolition would be on-sold, with all proceeds going back into the re-build fund.
The cost of the re-build of the mens' residence has been set at approximately $1m. Fordyce explained that this was the first time Odyssey House Trust had sought financial support from the public yet had, so far, been well supported. “We have already raised approximately $200,000 through various fundraising and charity events, local community grants, corporate and individual sponsorships,” she said. “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and depth of local support.”
Beyond the $1m needed for the new mens' residence, Fordyce was also seeking to raise an additional $600,000 to build an inaugural womens' residential wing on Odyssey House grounds. Currently, there is no equivalent long-term residential, female programme in Canterbury for women struggling with AOD addiction. “What we would like to do is build a residence for women at the same time, which would offer 6-8 beds,” she said. “We would like to capitalise on the economies of scale that come with such a big build and create capacity and space for a womens' residential programme within Odyssey House.”
The goal was to create a separate wing for women to reside in whilst they are committed to a long-term treatment programme. The wing would primarily house bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas, with the mens' residential building offering access to communal facilities, such as the kitchen, treatment and living spaces. Fordyce further explained that the cost of building the new premises fell on Odyssey House, but once completed, the operational costs of continuing to run and maintain the treatment programmes would be met by government funding. For that reason, it was important to note that all funds donated to Odyssey House for this project would go directly towards the building of the new premises, and would not be diverted into operational spending.
“We have reviewed all options as to where and how to re-build, and the feasibility study has shown that the best option for us is to build on this site,” she said. “It provides the residents (whether men or women) with access to the city, polytech, family, bus routes – it will be an optimised residence.”
Fordyce explained that Odyssey House provided an essential and economically viable service to those requiring support in their recovery from addiction.
“Odyssey House is providing a service that is critical to the well-being of the community,” she said. “We have many residents with an offending background and we know that the cost here to provide treatment, support, housing and integration is half of what it costs for that same person to remain in the prison system.”
“We can do better if we keep it here, and we can get more positive outcomes in a more cost-effective way.”
Donors who contribute to the re-build fund may be offered the opportunity to choose which areas they wish to sponsor, be given naming rights over certain areas and have plaques created to recognise their contribution.
For more information on Odyssey House, their services and treatment programmes, and their fundraising initiative, please contact Odyssey House Fundraising Manager Karen Fordyce on or 027 232 0353.