Fresh Start: Western Suburbs Weekly given access to Harborne St drug rehab house

Fresh Start chief executive Jeff Claughton is unsure of the future of its Wembley facility for recovering drug addicts.
Fresh Start chief executive Jeff Claughton is unsure of the future of its Wembley facility for recovering drug addicts.

A COUPLE of people napping in one room and another quietly watching television while snacking on Twisties.

It was hardly the scene of smoking, swearing, and anti-social behaviour that allegedly goes on at the drug rehabilitation house on Harborne Street, Wembley.

Western Suburbs Weekly was granted access to the Fresh Start-run facility facing closure in less than 70 days after Town of Cambridge council deemed it non-compliant and refused a change of use to allow its continuance.

A Town inspection was brought about after complaints by neighbours about the anti-social behaviour, which found 10 mattresses in the property, indicating more recovering meth addicts were staying there than the allowed six at a time.

Fresh Start chief executive Jeff Claughton said the organisation spent about $100,000 on “significant upgrades” on the building and had been working with the Town and neighbours to address every concern raised since it began operations in 2009.

“I understand the grievances; sometimes there is swearing and some of them smoke,” he said.

“Sometimes there are more than six people here, but sometimes there is only two, it depends and we hoped that an average of six would be ok.”

When the Western Suburbs Weekly visited the facility, two staff were on site, one preparing a stew for meals, with some residents sleeping, coming down after recent treatment.

Another, who had arrived that day and was due to move on the next day, sat quietly watching daytime television while she stabilised after her treatment.

Mr Claughton said the organisation was exploring its options, and no decisions had yet been made on its future.

Cambridge councillor Louis Carr supported the facility at the October meeting, but his emotional speech was largely ignored.

“I ask one simple question: where is your compassion?” he said.

“It is easy for us to go home to our partners, and children, I pray to God my four sons do not get involved in drugs.

“I have visited (the facility) and have looked into the eyes of the recovering addicts and sensed their pain.

“Instead of turning them away, we should embrace them.”

Councillor Andres Timmermanis said he sympathised with the neighbours and heard first-hand the unsavoury conversations held in the facility’s yard.