After devastating fire, new Straight and Narrow facility will offer hope for addicted people


A massive six-alarm fire on Aug. 24, 2019, destroyed the Straight and Narrow’s 410 Straight Street building in Paterson. On that devastating day, leaders of Catholic Charities of the Paterson Diocese pledged to rebuild the facility — a source of help for people seeking recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.

That promise to rebuild — and rebuild better — is being kept as a new and improved $30 million, 50,000-square-foot building for the Straight and Narrow Residential and Outpatient Treatment Program rises from the site of the former building. Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney joined about 100 dignitaries for Catholic Charity’s groundbreaking ceremony on June 26, which occurred next to the construction of the new building, begun in March.

The state-of-the-art treatment facility is set to open in 16 months. It will offer a comprehensive campus setting for daily clinical work and operations. Straight and Narrow is the largest nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in the United States, operated by Catholic Charities. Officials said the new facility will enable them to “provide even more comprehensive care and support to people struggling with addiction not just in Paterson, but also in our entire state of New Jersey.”

“I am thankful for the support received at today’s groundbreaking ceremony. Our new substance use treatment facility will allow us to continue to serve individuals seeking recovery, as we continue our mission of providing help and creating hope for those in need,” Angela Nikolovski, Straight and Narrow executive director, said.

The new campus will replace the 50-bed men’s halfway house destroyed by the fire. No lives were lost, but the building was a complete loss. All clients were safely relocated with all facets of operation running smoothly amid the crises.

The facility will also house a new warehouse for critical supplies, clinical offices for outpatient treatment, a chapel and pastoral care services area open to people of all faiths, a multi-purpose room for recreation and meetings, administrative offices for more than 300 staff and volunteers, and a food service area, including a kitchen, which will serve more than 3,000 meals a day.

Scott Milliken, Catholic Charities’ CEO, thanked people, who helped make the project a reality, including many who participated in the groundbreaking. He acknowledged Bishop Sweeney and elected officials, including N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Mikie Sherrill, N.J. State Sen. Nellie Pou, N.J. State Reps. Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter, and Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. Milliken thanked the Catholic Charites’ Board of Trustees, design and construction officials, those who assisted with financing, diocesan staff and faithful, clergy, and community partners.

At the end of the ceremony, several dignitaries posed for photos as they turned over ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt for the groundbreaking. The project was funded by insurance, state budget dollars, New Market Tax Credits, and the Diocesan Ministry Appeal fundraising.

“Someone told me a long time ago to remember the origins of the African parable ‘It takes a village.’ Without all of you, this project could not have been realized. Thanks to all for supporting us,” Milliken said.

Bishop Sweeney thanked Milliken and Nikolovski for their dedication to the project.

“We are privileged to walk together as sisters and brothers to serve those in need here in our beloved city and the Diocese of Paterson,” Bishop Sweeney said.

Sayegh, a Catholic, called the groundbreaking “a testament to the unwavering spirit of our community.”

“The new facility will not only replace what was lost, but will also enhance Straight and Narrow’s ability to provide critical support to those seeking recovery,” Sayegh said.

On Aug. 24, 2019, shortly before 11 a.m., a five-alarm fire broke out at 410 Straight Street, which houses a 50-bed men’s halfway house for Straight and Narrow, a Diocesan Catholic Charities agency in Paterson. Immediately after the fire, 150 people were displaced temporarily and the 50 men residing at the halfway house were displaced permanently. No one was injured in the fire and 19 fire departments and agencies responded in fighting the blaze. (Beacon File Photo | Rich Gigli)


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