Kate’s Liverpool venture offers a lockdown lifeline

Opened in 2019 by Liverpool entrepreneur Kate Stewart, Damien John Kelly House supports men battling alcohol and drug addiction and has provided a vital lifeline during COVID-19. Tony McDonough reports

Kate Stewart
Liverpool entrepreneur Kate Stewart has set up Vitality Homes


A residential centre for men battling alcohol and drug addiction opened by Liverpool entrepreneur Kate Stewart is now complete with five new rooms added.

Damien John Kelly (DJK) House was opened in Wavertree in south Liverpool by Ms Stewart’s Vitality Homes venture in 2019. After overcoming winning over initially sceptical local residents the facility is now fully operational.

It was already providing a major support system for men in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction before the COVID-19 pandemic. And since March it has provided a vital lifeline for those left isolated by the crisis.

DJK House has been able to welcome new residents in the past few weeks thanks to Liverpool’s Operation Moonshot, which has given anyone living and working in Liverpool access to mass COVID-19 testing.

With new residents tested multiple times, the centre is now almost at capacity with just five spaces available. This will allow more men to commit to a new way of life through following Vitality Homes’ programmes where they are provided with 24 hour support.

Ms Stewart said: “I can’t thank Liverpool City Council enough for championing Operation Moonshot and ensuring that mass testing is quick, easy and accessible to all. COVID has made life incredibly difficult this year.

“Being able to welcome new residents to utilise Vitality Homes’ services during this second lockdown, which is also during a dark, cold winter month where people can feel more lonely and vulnerable, has been incredible. We want to help as many people as possible turn their lives around and help them maintain their abstinence through our recovery programme.”

When the pandemic began in March, DJK House and its residents embraced lockdown, throwing themselves into various projects and initiatives including Zoom groups, one-to-one sessions, online AA/NA/CA sessions and listening to inspirational guest speakers each week from all over the world.

The residents were also encouraged to undertake fitness activities including boxing, weightlifting and football training, alongside pursuing their creativity with photography and art sessions.

Seeking solace during the second lockdown, the residents have again embarked on personal journeys, lifting each other’s spirits in the process and leaning on businesses and individuals in Liverpool for additional support through care packages, donations and a surprise socially-distanced visit.

Vitality Homes
Residents at Damien John Kelly House in Liverpool


A local LIPA student and critically-acclaimed musician, Niamh Turley-Moon, took some time out of penning her music to treat the residents to a special performance from DJK House’s car park gates.

Niamh had read a social media post detailing how the residents were finding the second lockdown more difficult and decided to lift their spirits from afar. She said: “Having seen on social media that the lads at DJK House were not finding this lockdown as easy as last time, I wanted to do something to cheer them up.

“I have seen addiction first hand in family and friends and know that isolation can cause relapses, so I just turned up to their car park and sang to them from the gates. It was lovely to look up and see them all come out on to the balcony to listen to me.”

Vitality Homes’ head of service, Jacquie Johnston-Lynch added: This was such a selfless gesture for Niamh to come along and lift our spirits at such a precarious time. We were delighted.

“The guys were in a period of transition as we had recently opened the ground floor up to new residents so that we could take eight more men here, exactly at the same time as lockdown occurred. Fortunately because of all the wonderful support we receive in Wavertree from far and wide everyone’s recovery has flourished.”

One resident, Ryan, who has been clean and sober for 18 months, said: “We have a great community here, we are safe and I credit this place for changing my life. Niamh coming here has blown us all away. Even in a tough lockdown, life can get better and better.”

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