Leaders of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre say they will be able to help more addicts turn their lives around after getting the blessing of Hartlepool council.
The Reach Out Recovery centre is expanding its former church base in Whitby Street in response to increasing demands from people addicted to drugs and booze.
Despite objections from some neighbouring properties over the building’s use, councillors yesterday approved a change of use from a church to rehabilitation centre and alterations to allow it to take in more people.
Reverend Colin Sawtell of the Living Waters church said: “It means we can take more people in and help more people by taking them out of the situation they are in.
“It is fantastic.”
Rev Sawtell said the application, which was retrospective, developed due to the amount of homeless people coming to them who also had drug and alcohol problems.
Alterations are taking place inside the grade two listed building to create more bedrooms and additional facilities such as bathrooms, shower room and communal areas.
Occupiers of some properties in Whitby Street and Scarborough Street objected on grounds including it would put off businesses and customers from coming to the area which is the focus of a council led regeneration project, and safety fears for female workers.
Police said there had been no incidents of significant concern in a check of the last year.
Rev Sawtell added: “We have been here for seven years but nobody knew what we were doing until we put in for a change of use.
“There has been no incidents.” He said residents have to agree to quit alcohol and drugs to be able to stay and are put on an 18-month rehab programme and registered with a GP.
Rev Sawtell added: “All our staff are above qualified I would say. We have helped save hundreds of thousands of pounds from people not ending up in court or getting in trouble with police. We have had great success.
“There’s a lot of education goes on here. We teach life skills so they can go back and function in society.”
One former addict from Hartlepool, who did not wish to be named, said the rehabilitation he received at the centre had spared him from being sent to prison.
He said: “I was in denial about my addiction. Coming here is the best thing I have ever done in my life.”