Gordon House is the only place of its kind in the country: a hostel for problem gamblers. Currently there are 13 residents and a waiting list about as long. Now there are plans for opening a second hostel in the Midlands. The main need for gamblers who want to stop gambling, as Gordon Moody, the inspired Methodist clergyman who founded Gordon House, understood, is to get off the street. They need a place to stay where they can get away from the gambling life and be helped to recover normal lives.

Not easy, because the people who land up in this modest terraced house in south-west London are, by definition, at the end of a long run of destructive gambling. In most cases, their addiction has destroyed not only themselves but their families and their jobs. Yet they are not outcasts. "What goes on here," Gordon Moody once observed, "and has done from the beginning, is that when the door opens, it's opened as much by the residents as by the staff, and there is a welcoming hand to a fellow human being, coming back into life, with no reservation."

"There are four stages to recovery," explains project director Kevin Farrell Roberts. "Coping for Today, where gamblers take one day at a time, lasts 6 to 8 weeks. Coping for Yesterday, when they look at the causes behind their problem and receive counselling. This process lasts about four months. Coping for Tomorrow, which means preparing for resettlement. And Coping with the Community, which involves maintaining contact when they leave Gordon House." It is this last phase which the organisation finds so difficult to sustain, because of lack of funds for "out-reach workers".

Out of the pounds 40 or pounds 50 a week the residents get from various state benefits, they have to look after themselves. Filling in the time, for people who once spent hours every day in gambling, takes some doing. Training in practical skills, in order to get a new job, is one way. And the usual Gamblers Anonymous sessions, which are a group activity, are held regularly. In terms of "client satisfaction", Gordon House, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, scores very high marks. In terms of residents stopping gambling, its success is more problematic - this is a life-long process.

A national telephone help line has now been established by the excellent charity Gamcare, for gamblers who want help or information. The number, Monday to Fridays, is: 0845-6000-133.