What is Devizes Opendoors?
It is a charity that has been set up to help people in the Devizes Community Area to find solutions to homelessness; to offer support to local people when they are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and to benefit local individuals in need, including the marginalised and vulnerable.
Opendoors exists 100% for the benefit of others, in particular those who are homeless or at risk of becoming so. For the last few years it has provided three cooked meals a week at St. John’s Parish Rooms, Long Street and there are about 15 – 20 people there at most sessions. Along with the good food and company there is the chance of a shower and a few other things (see Opening Times).
The guests are a mixture of rough sleepers, those sleeping in sheds, vans and old boats, sofa surfers and those with their own homes but with issues that can make their tenancies vulnerable.
The team has two paid staff, a coordinator and a deputy coordinator, and over 50 volunteers on a rota with 7 - 9 on per session. Together they prepare the food and the hall, welcome the guests and chat, serve meals and discuss issues in one-to-one conversations. Concerns that get followed up include health (mental and physical) issues, alcohol and drug dependency, criminal activity, financial matters and of course, housing issues.
Like to find out more about? Click to download our Autumn 2019 Volunteer Newsletter.
A series of articles about those who access Opendoors services, and those who provide them.
A very big thank you to our volunteer Helen and her sister Liz Bailey who organised a coffee morning recently that raised over £300. A fabulous boost to our funds, we are very grateful indeed.
This is a list of companies, organisations, groups or individuals who have made contributions either in cash or in kind to Devizes Opendoors
Colin Harrison Design Ltd - Graphic Designer based in Melksham
Date for Your Diary - Annual Sponsored Sleepout
8pm Sat 11 January to 8am Sun 12 January 2020
St. Mary’s Church - Devizes
SIGN UP FOR THE SLEEP OUT!
For one night only - on Saturday 11 January 2020 - local homeless charity Opendoors will host a sleep out event at St Mary’s Church Devizes where people can either sleep in the church or brave a night ‘under the stars’ (whatever the weather) to raise vital funds for the charity that helps people in the Devizes Community Area to find solutions to homelessness.
Described as inspiring and thought provoking by previous participants, experience a small taste of some of the difficulties that so many people homeless in the country have to deal with - freezing cold, venerability and the difficulty of carrying on your day with very little sleep - and raise money for a very worthwhile cause.
Opendoors depends entirely on donations - both in terms of money and food, volunteers’ time, clothing, books for example and the sleep out is a key fund raising event in the calendar. In 2019 it raised £1,360 representing 5% of the Opendoors total funding for the year. We are aiming for 10% this year and with your help can make that happen.
Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult - minimum age 8 years.
- Hot drinks available.
- Bring blankets, camping mattress, pillow.
- Have gloves, thick socks, woollen hat.
- Bring more warm clothing than you think you will need!
- Some toilet facilities on site.
Forthcoming Events in Support of Devizes Opendoors
Be a Devizes Opendoors Befriender
Give a homeless person a hand up - not a handout
This autumn we are looking for people who can empathise and encourage.
We provide full training and you will join a supportive team of volunteer Befrienders.
Please click here to find out more, or contact John Saunders:
If you are homeless, know someone who is, or concerned about someone at risk of becoming homeless we might be able to help. Please call: 07493 825258
To speak to a member of the team during our regular opening times please call: 07722 096046
The official government annual rough sleeping statistics were published yesterday (25.01.17) following the count which took place in November 2016.
The official definition of the term “rough sleeper” used for the purpose of collecting data, is: “People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes”).
There are two methods in which this data can be collated – an estimated method and an actual physical count. The former involves specialist agencies, who routinely engage with rough sleepers, submitting information to the local authority based upon self-declared accommodation status. This information is an accurate figure due to the very nature of the relationships established between the agencies and the service users during the months leading up the night of the count.
The actual method of counting is impossible to be conducted due to the rural nature of a county like Wiltshire. In this county rough sleepers are not visible in the same way that they are in the larger towns. Rough sleepers will do whatever they can to remain safe on the streets and therefore they will be hidden away in areas that are not frequented by the public at night. This has meant that it is virtually impossible to conduct an actual count due to the fact that it is not feasible to go traipsing around woods, fields, laybys etc in the middle of the night trying to find someone sleeping in a tent or car.
Both methods of counting, in the north of the county, took place on the night in November with the two specialist agencies, Doorway and Opendoor, carrying out the estimated method and the Local Authority carrying out the actual count on foot in the two town centres of Chippenham and Devizes. Subsequently, there were shown to be significant discrepancies between the two figures with the actual method producing lower results.
Unfortunately, Wiltshire Council opted to submit the lower figures to central government despite our two organisations raising concerns regarding the validity of the statistics.
Specifically we raised concerns regarding the following:
- The narrow definition of the term ‘rough sleeper’ excludes “people in hostels or shelters, people in campsites or other sites used for recreational purposes or organised protest, squatters or travellers”. Because the definition includes people in derelict buildings, both Doorway and Opendoor included several rough sleepers who were known to be sleeping in buildings which met this criteria. However, the council redefined those individuals as “squatters” meaning they were subsequently eliminated from the final figures.
- A number of rough sleepers were known to be sleeping rough in rural areas which weren’t visited by council officials on the night of the count and were thus eliminated from the submitted figure.
- Several of the Chippenham based long term rough sleepers moved across the county boundary into Bath the week before the count and were not included in the Wiltshire figures or in the Bath figures since they were not yet engaging with the homelessness services in the neighbouring city. Two long term Devizes rough sleepers also moved out of the county to other Local Authorities the week before the night of the count and possibly were also eliminated from the national figures.
In addition we are raising general concerns regarding the following factors:
- Rough sleepers often alternate between staying out on the streets and sofa surfing depending on whether they can access accommodation with friends or family. It is therefore only a 50/50 chance as to whether they can be recorded as rough sleeping on any given night.
- Due to both the rural nature of the county and the chaotic lifestyles of those living on the streets, people often do not regularly engage with specialist services in the main towns. Therefore, it is impossible to produce an actual figure on just one night of the year. Very often our rough sleepers will also disappear for a period of time before once again re-engaging with our services.
- Specialist support services only exist in three of Wiltshire’s towns, Chippenham, Devizes and Trowbridge in addition to the main service located in the city of Salisbury. Other large towns such as Corsham, Calne, Melksham and all the smaller villages, are not able to provide estimated or actual figures for the night of the count due to the absence of any specialist organisation. We know that there are people sleeping rough throughout the county who are not engaged with daycentres and therefore excluded from the annual statistics.
On a positive note, both our organisations worked very closely with Wiltshire Council and the two hostels in the county, in the weeks leading up the day of the count, in order to successfully accommodate a number of rough sleepers and we will continue to do so. A newly appointed outreach worker has also recently been recruited by the council to help facilitate inter-organisational working relationships and positive outcomes for supporting rough sleepers in the county.
Devizes Opendoors is a registered charity supporting local homeless and vulnerable adults. It runs four drop-in sessions a week at St. John’s Parish Rooms, Long Street, Devizes, SN10 1NN and cooked meals are served at three of these.
Opendoors’ mission is to help people move on in their lives in order to find greater happiness and fulfilment. We are an ambitious charity and plan to develop a range of new services and possibilities over the next months and years.
Our team of friendly and caring volunteers work with guests in a variety of ways and help link people up with specialist agencies that can offer professional advice with housing, drugs and alcohol abuse and financial problems. There is help available to use the phone and laptop, help with bus fares to appointments, access to a clothing store, laundry tickets, a shower and surplus food to take away,
Opendoors wants to appoint a paid Co-ordinator for 10 hours a week on between £11 - £14ph, subject to experience. The person must have a passion for improving the opportunities for disadvantaged adults and have good organisation skills. They will co-ordinate the training and duties of the team of voluntary workers and will have the support of a Deputy Co-ordinator and the Trustees in seeing that all sessions run well.