ACCOMMODATION for homeless teenagers has been officially opened.
Up to 15 apartments have been built on a former cinema that burnt to the ground in South Burns, next to Chester-le-Street’s Market Place.
Billy Walton, who used to run the town’s Crocodillos nightclub, is behind the development, which is managed by Sunderland YMCA, which until now has given homeless youngsters from North Durham a temporary home at its Wearside base.
Sunderland YMCA chief executive Paul Keenan said the scheme, which cost more than £1million, includes a training centre and shops for rent.
Mr Keenan added it is not a bail hostel and is for young people to live with their families after a breakdown in their relationship.
He said: “When you put together the words young people and homeless, people often come up with bail hostel.”
The background of all residents, who are referred by Durham County Council, are checked.
Because the flats are shared, the organisation must make sure youngsters do not pose a threat to their flatmates.
A condition of staying in the flats is that youngsters must take part in education or training.
Mr Keenan said: “It is about them becoming agents of their own destiny. Most people move out in less than six months.”
The three-storey scheme, which currently has 31 residents, has created five jobs and is managed 24 hours a day.