Top-notch rehab at 'godsend' hall

Top-notch rehab at 'godsend' hall

A stunning new Norfolk base for charity Teen Challenge London will bring hope, faith and rehabilitation to even more young men.

Walk into Drayton Hall and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d entered a boutique hotel. With its panelled staircase, large historic rooms, luxury furniture and extensive wooded grounds, the estate feels like a spa facility.

The reality couldn’t be more different. Drayton Hall is the new home of Teen Challenge London’s rehabilitation centre, where men battling addictions and the ravages of traumatic backgrounds enter a programme that is half monastic and half boot camp to find freedom, purpose and hope.

The therapeutic environment is ideal for rehabilitation, says Elim minister Steve Derbyshire, who is chairman of the charity and pastors City Gates Church in Ilford.

It is also a far cry from the charity’s roots in the East End of the city, adds Teen Challenge London project leader, Javier Lesta Candal.

“The East End is a tough area and I could see the needs all around me from the moment I arrived there in the early 90s,” says Steve, himself a former heroin addict.

Teen Challenge London, he says, started with a single-deck bus which went out around Ilford and Barking for 25 years. The outreach grew and went out to other areas including Whitechapel, Hackney, Brixton, Ealing and Waterloo weekly, giving out up to 20,000 meals per year.

“We also went onto the Gascoyne estate, which had the highest suicide rate in London among young men at the time.

“Some of the stories we heard were horrific, with terrible situations of abuse.”

A more permanent ministry grew as the charity acquired buildings to develop as a crisis centre. Over the years, the site expanded as it built residential facilities to house 29 men and a centre which refurbishes and sells furniture and appliances.

It has also launched neighbourhood outreach and a separate charity, Exit Foundation, working with county lines gang members.

Through the Teen Challenge programme, the charity is transforming the lives of men who come to it via its street outreach programme or through local churches.

Indeed, as Javier provided Direction with a tour of the London site, one client explained the difference it has made. “My life has changed drastically. I was homeless for 15 years and now I’m clean.
I’m restored, saved, healthy and I have a future,” said Tim.

But while its programme helps men break free of addictions, gain an education and undertake work experience, its location in the poorest part of Redbridge was becoming an increasing problem.

“We had people outside our site smoking or taking drugs, fighting and screaming. Cars were coming past with music booming. The guys with us were trying to get away from all that. We needed to get them out.”

So the gift of the fully-furnished Drayton Hall in Norwich by Norfolk-based charity the Lind Trust this year has proved to be a godsend.

“It’s like a hotel,” says Steve of the 36-bed facility that Teen Challenge London had initially thought to use as a centre for its county lines rehabilitation programme.


“Everything here is top-notch and it’s more conducive to the men because they won’t be tempted to go back on the streets. It’s in its own grounds and has a church, workshops, 600-year-old trees. It’s phenomenal!”

The quiet, stunning environment is hugely conducive to rehabilitation, adds Javier.

“It’s surrounded by trees and the sun hits the back of the building all day long. It has a huge car park which we’re going to use as a football and volleyball area and we’re close to canals and the sea, so we can do canoeing and kayaking.

“We’ve got a gym, a games area and a dining room too. We’ve gone from an industrial estate on the back of a very poor community to a serene facility with endless surroundings.

“It’s a big step of faith coming out of London but it gives us more capacity and the men will do better in this environment. They’ll be able to concentrate on becoming free of their addictions, learning and discovering faith.”

Steve is also excited that in addition to the new facility, Teen Challenge London is already working with churches in Norwich to launch outreach in the local area.

And while the charity may have made the move to Norwich, it is maintaining its London roots too. It is now using its Redbridge site to house its gangs ministry and provide a re-entry home for men who are in the final stages of rehabilitation and working for its refurbishment operation. Here, Teen Challenge London continues to impact its community.

“We have a strong witness with our furniture project. We have two guys who are basically evangelists, delivering furniture and sharing about Jesus.”

At both Drayton Hall and in east London, Javier and Steve are committed to offering renewal and faith to broken lives.

“A lot of the men are the problems in their communities. Our aim is for them to become disciples of Christ who help transform those communities,” they say.

From Direction Magazine issue 242


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