Transforming Lives

“To tackle homelessness, you have to also consider addiction, mental-illness, and abuse, otherwise you’ll always come up short.” This is what a member of the Leeds based rehabilitation programme ‘The Growing Rooms’ said to us during an interview.

The Crypt’s work encompasses more than simply providing shelter and food. The aim is not just getting people off the streets but setting them up for independent living.

This means connecting them with employers and communities, helping them write CVs, building up work experience and even setting up bank accounts. This gives people a better long-term chance of transforming their lives. One such initiative is the Crypt’s Growing Rooms – a programme that recognises people as individuals and that addiction is only a small part of who they are. Recovery involves much more than just stopping drinking/taking drugs.

Clients follow a structured programme which includes 3 days a week cognitive behaviour group therapy and 2 days volunteering. Volunteering opportunities range from housekeeping, catering, retail, maintenance & gardening, all aimed at building employability and life skills.

John Davis’ road to being head of the programme was not an easy one. Ten years ago, he was entered into a psychiatric ward after coming close to suicide.

“I was addicted to drugs for years,” he says, “and I went through a lot of it as a functioning addict. I worked through most of it – it was only in the last six years that it got worse. I got married, had kids and a house, but I couldn’t stop taking. Eventually, l got close to taking my own life. While I was in the psychiatric ward, a nurse found out about a day-treatment programme like this one and got me into it.”

“I joined that programme and things started making sense. I realised it was my own fear-based thinking. I’d been driven and consumed by fear all my life. I realised I was trying to seek validation from external things. Eventually that validation came from substances. Since coming into recovery, I realised it’s okay to be me. I still fear whether people will like me for instance. But that fear doesn’t overwhelm me.”

During this time, John realised his behaviour was related to his addiction – the drugs and alcohol were just symptoms. It was his thinking that had to change.

Of course, it was still incredibly tough – John relapsed twice while recovering – but in late 2010, he’d been clean for a whole year. It was during this time that the origins of the Growing Rooms programme came into being. John took the ideas behind it from the programme, and also wanting to provide housing for those recovering from addiction:

“I’d see people coming into recovery, and then they’d disappear. I’d see them two years later at an event somewhere like London or a small place like Accrington. I’d ask what happened? They’d say they went to these places because there was no place for them to come back to in Leeds, other than the deprived areas they’d left. They stayed in these places because they had houses for them to get clean. I thought to myself that can’t be right. A city the size of Leeds not having any treatment programme with housing for addicts?”

John realised this was something Leeds needed. He came up with what would become “The Growing Rooms” – a rehabilitation programme, involving residents living together for a year, participating in therapy sessions similar to the ones John had when he was in rehab. In addition, they would gradually begin participating in volunteering work; this provides them with valuable experience learning to be self-motivating, keep to a time frame, and bolsters their customer-service skills.

He started meeting with NHS commissioners and other treatment providers requesting funding to initiate the programme. “Everyone said it was a great idea, but they had no money for it. Until one commissioner said you should take it to St George’s Crypt.” The Crypt agreed to help start it, and the programme has run for three years now.

The programme’s aim is not just to keep them free of drugs and alcohol but also to prepare them for life after the programme.

“It’s no good just getting an addict clean, substance-free, and putting them back in a bedsit on Job-seekers allowance. They won’t have any quality of life.” John’s aim is to get people back into employment – into something that would drive them and give purpose. He explained the various things to be considered to help those on the programme: “To get a bank-account, they need a birth-certificate or photo-ID. We will support them to obtain a birth certificate so they can get then go on to get a bank account. We encourage them to register with a GP and a dentist and save up for a passport and a driving licence. The aim is to break down as many barriers as possible.”

While all this happens, those helped by the programme live in “recovery housing”. Each home houses four members of the programme. All the houses are close together, creating a close-knit community that helps each other out. The houses mean someone recovering from addiction has somewhere safe to put their head on a night, surrounded by people going through the same issues they are. It is a community in itself; some people finish the programme but come back to help others. Everyone knows each other and help each other in case the other cannot do it alone.


As long as poverty, injustice & inequality persist, none of us can truly rest. It doesn’t take much to change a life, Get in touch today and start making the difference.

st george's crypt leeds

Great George Street
Leeds, LS1 3BR

0113 245 9061