Trempoline - Grouped housing to reintegrate drug addicts

A transition to independent living

Pascale Thys, 2009


Trempoline asbl1 , which has been in existence since 1985, offers, among other things, a residential therapeutic programme for drug addicts. Its primary mission is «  to teach addicts to self-manage their lives without resorting to psychotropic products or other destructive behaviours ".

The therapeutic program is divided into several phases spread over a period of more or less 18 months, which allows the gradual confrontation of difficulties and a progressive learning of autonomy :

1. the reception of people with strong addictions (coming either from the street, or coming out of prison, or following a call for help from parents). It lasts about 2 to 3 months. Its mission is to «  create the link between the resident and Trempoline, by respectfully welcoming the resident in a secure environment, to allow him/her to re-appropriate skills and to continue his/her personal evolution in a therapeutic community " ;

2. the therapeutic community, in a residential setting, over a period of 10 months. Its objectives for the residents are to learn how to manage their emotions and needs, to know and accept themselves and to know how to manage human relationships;

3. social reintegration. This phase, which lasts 6 to 8 months (often with extensions of the stay) is a challenge, a shock for 60 to 70% of the people. It prepares them for life in society and helps them regain self-confidence. People arrive with a short, medium and/or long term life project.

Two places are assigned to this phase : a house located in Lodelinsart, where the residents are still « monitored » and a grouped housing in Gilly, where the residents live in pre autonomy. It is this habitat that is mainly discussed here.

The maximum rent is 125€ (except if it represents more than 20% of what the person receives). This makes it possible to put money aside for the day when the resident will live alone.

Gilly’s home consists of several pavilions with individual bedrooms and a shared kitchen, bathroom and living room. There is also a large garden. A specific apartment is reserved for women with children.

This habitat is entirely taken care of by Trempoline. No subsidy is received for this experiment, which started in 2002. The buildings are rented for a small fee from the Italian Catholic Mission. The main costs consist of utilities and furnishing.

Trempoline is also the basis of an experience that is unique in the French Community, namely a kangaroo habitat for drug-addicted mothers and their children. It is supported by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Minister of Social Affairs and Health of the Walloon Region. Currently 4 families live there.

Type of public

Adults, between 18 and 44 years of age, (women and men) who have completed 12-14 months of treatment with Trempoline and are able to live without using drugs.

Conditions of access and motivation

There are 3 conditions to be able to live in Gilly :

1. to have stayed at the house of Lodelinsart ;

2. to enrol in a long-term training course (1-2 years) ;

3. have a minimum social situation (income).

This group housing is also a kind of expansion vessel for the Lodelinsart house, which accommodates 10-12 people. This makes it possible to avoid « kicking out » a resident who is not « ready » to face social life in complete autonomy.

Mode of operation

There are internal regulations with very strict basic rules (no violence, no drugs, no medication, no alcohol) which allow, among other things, a learning of self-discipline. The framework of these rules is defined by Trempoline ("~those who have the authority, the legal responsibility~"), but some rules can be modified by the residents.

Residents are autonomous. They have nothing more to learn about living together as they have already had experience of it through their passage through Trempoline and the Lodelinsart house. Rather, it is more a question of putting them in a situation with the inevitable reality in which the residents will have to experiment (for example: learning to live with their neighbours).

They do what they want to do and go where they want to go (while respecting the schedules of their training). Cable TV is paid for by them, they manage the cleaning themselves…

There is some realistic self-management for their needs. They are pro-active.

Types of social support

At the beginning of the program the dependent person is subject to a parental type of care. Then there is a gradual empowerment of the individual. In the social reintegration phase, each resident receives his or her file and must manage it himself or herself and make appointments with the services if necessary. Throughout the programme, a monthly meeting with the family is organised, in order to recreate a bond, a valuable family network for the future. People in the reintegration phase can ask to continue these meetings. But very often, the people living in Gilly don’t have many families left and so it is a work of reconstruction.

There is an alumni group, the ART group (Former Residents of Trempoline), which meets once a month and is open to all. This allows them to talk about their problems with people who have gone through the same stages.

Some residents participate in discussion groups at the Lodelinsart house.

For the residents of Gilly it is mainly individual interviews.

If there is a need for therapy, we try to find something outside ("~to detach from the structure~").

Currently two women and two men live at Gilly.

Couples are not allowed.

You have to leave Gilly’s habitat after a maximum of 20 months of presence. Always with the prospect of making room for the next one.

Tools and methods

There is a specialized educator with a multidisciplinary training (psychoanalysis, systemic therapy, …) who takes care of the inhabitants of Gilly.

For those in charge of the experiment, the Gilly group home is a useful springboard to get started in life, for people who are not ready to live alone.

This type of habitat, but in the longer term, would perhaps be an answer for people who relapse, but on the other hand, it was found that autonomy is harder to find after almost 3 years of institution.

Gilly’s housing manager does from time to time the exercise with residents to see what they want for their future housing (place of living, number of rooms, cable TV cable…) in order to show them, among other things, how much it costs. For him, one solution to lower costs while maintaining a certain level of comfort would be for former residents to live together, which would multiply the costs and allow them to rent something more beautiful. However, to date none of the residents have chosen this solution.

For the director of Trempoline, exchanges with other experiences in other countries is important in the search for knowledge in the accompaniment of vulnerable people.

To go further

This fact sheet is based on an interview with Georges van der Straten, director of Trempoline and Umberto Zambito, special educator.

  • Trempoline, asbl

    Grand Rue, 3 - 6200 Châtelet

    Phone: 071/

    Fax : 071/38.78.86

    Website : Asbl Trempoline