A charity health bus which tours communities to reach out to those most in need has been left damaged and without essential kit after it was targeted by thieves.
Workers at Hartlepool Families First arrived at their compound in Walden Street to collect vehicles ahead of half-term holiday activities to find the bus with its windows smashed out and doors damaged.
A £3,500 Honda generator, used to power the bus’s computers and other gear, was also taken in the attack, believed to have been carried out by a man using a white van.
The service was launched 20 years ago, carrying out regular checks on behalf of GP surgeries and offering advice and information, as well as signposting people on to other help groups and services.
Paul Thompson, manager of the York Road-based organisation, said: “The damage is quite substantive, so the doors are badly damaged as well as the window.
“One major asset to us, the vehicle’s generator, has been stolen and it’s a really high-end model because it is used to power quite sensitive equipment.
This has been a deliberate attack on us, because they have known what they were coming for and went looking for it.Paul Thompson
“The police are investigating and have taken CCTV from the area and we think it was a man in a white van.
“This has been a deliberate attack on us, because they have known what they were coming for and went looking for it.”
The charity is looking at ways it can continue its work by visiting community centres while the Optare Alero bus is repaired and equipment replaced.
Mr Thompson added: “We get people coming on to ask about anything, from nits to how to cope with bereavement.
“We get quite a lot of elderly people using our service as somewhere to get their blood pressure checked and some GPs refer patients to us because it’s easier for the patients to access.
“Sometimes it’s quite a social event for them because that’s their contact with people.
“That isn’t going to be possible in the same way for now and we know some of our most vulnerable people use it.
“We’re really proud of this bus and there was a lot of hard work and effort put in to make it what it was and the staff work really hard. “Someone has taken that away.”
The break in happened between 8pm on Monday and early on Tuesday morning.
Anyone with information about the break-in can call Cleveland Police on 101.