A MAJOR initiative has been launched to tackle rising numbers of street drinkers in Keighley.

The Third Place will provide alcohol users with facilities such as showers and a laundry, and hot meals and drinks.

There will also be a range of support and advice and access to services.

Spearheading the venture is Keighley’s award-winning drug and alcohol charity, Project 6, which says the new centre – in Devonshire Street – will be capable of helping more than 150 people a year.

The scheme – being funded through a capital grant of almost £250,000 from Public Health England – will also include community outreach, with workers going out across the town to engage with people.

Several partner organisations are involved.

And The Third Place has widespread backing from health professionals and businesses.

Concerns have been growing from the public and business owners about street drinkers in the town, who congregate at ‘hotspots’ including the area outside the bus station and beneath the car park ramp at the junction of Cavendish Street and Hanover Street.

A launch event for the new service – held last Friday – was attended by representatives of Public Health England and partners and supporters of the project.

Among those present were MP John Grogan, town mayor Councillor Peter Corkindale, police inspector Khalid Khan and Colin Stansbie from Bradford Council’s public health department.

Guests were shown around the centre and learned about the facilities on offer.

As part of the scheme, alcohol-dependent adults will be able to access harm-reduction advice and mainstream services. There will also be a wellbeing cafe.

People will receive support from ‘recovery buddies’ throughout the process.

Vicki Beere, chief executive officer at Project 6, said Keighley had been particularly badly hit by austerity and that there was “an increasingly-visible cohort of street drinkers” within the community.

She added: “They are likely to have complex needs, such as severe alcohol dependency and histories of serious physical or mental health problems.

“We’ll be providing GP sessions, health nurses and a ‘dental bus’.

“By helping people to improve their physical health and wellbeing, and providing access to food and showers, we hope to engage these individuals with complex needs into treatment and then provide them with access to our range of recovery services.”

Mr Grogan, who was involved in early discussions about the project, congratulated all those who helped bring it to fruition.

He said some people had questioned the spending of public money on the centre, but he felt it was fully justified and worthwhile for several reasons.

Mr Grogan added: “If this project can help people turn around their lives, giving them a fresh start and the ability to deal with their addiction, then they can start paying taxes and reconcile with their families and children – and that’s a great social good.

“Also, when I was first elected, people were very concerned about street drinking and addiction – traders told me it was affecting their businesses. So it’s for the good of the whole town if we can stand up and do something.

“And thirdly, people with addictions are no different to the rest of us.They’re people who’ve had difficulties in life – maybe the loss of a job, relationship breakdowns or mental health problems. None of us are immune. These things touch all society.

“I hope this project becomes a beacon in Keighley.”

Inspector Khan said the police fully backed the scheme.

“Street drinking has been an issue for us for around two years,” he said.

“We are one hundred per cent behind the scheme. We will work in partnership with Project 6 and make sure our officers are linking-up with the project to support these vulnerable people.”

The centre will also house other Project 6 services ­– including Keighley Pathways, a crisis centre for the whole community.