A Wigan church will fulfil long-held ambitions to open a support hub for drug and alcohol addiction in one of the region’s most deprived communities.
St Barnabas in Marsh Green has been given the green light to extend its premises and provide supported accommodation in the form of nine bedsits.
New offices will also be built, creating a permanent base for outreach services to ‘enable lives to be set free from the hold drugs and alcohol have over them’.
People staying at the church will receive skills training, including cooking, CV-writing, cooking and job and home references once they are ready to move back into the community.
“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m very excited for things to get going as we’re already changing lives in the community,” said Reverend Rachael Sheehan.
“There are people living really chaotic lives, coming from single parent homes racked with drug and alcohol addiction, and low income – if any at all.
“We don’t want to do things for them, we want to do things with them.”
St Barnabas says Marsh Green, which sits outside Wigan town centre, is in the bottom 10pc most deprived parishes in Greater Manchester.
Rev Sheehan says the church is already ‘changing lives’ in the area with the help of Addaction, the group that runs Wigan council’s substance misuse service.
The new builds, with the main section linked to the church, will provide the supported accommodation operated by Addaction, along with the cafe, advice centre and foodbank warehouse.
Having joined the church six months ago, Rev Sheehan says she has been moved by the ‘togetherness’ shown by those living through adversity.
She said: “What has struck me is the sense of community. I love being part of it and it really puts the fire in my belly.
“You never know what you’re going to face. In the face of unholy chaos, that’s where the church should be.”
The project had been the brainchild of the Reverend Denise Hayes, who left in August to join the St Barnabas’ Church in Hattersley.
Welcoming the planning approval as ‘fantastic news’, Rev Hayes said: “This hub will make such a difference in people’s lives. The work I started will carry on and flourish and grow.”
Written by: Niall Griffiths