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 Winter 2019-2020 Volunteer Newsletter.
A series of articles about those who access Opendoors services, and those who provide them.
Dates for your Diary
Jumble Sale 10am on 29th February at St Andrews’ Church Hall. Plenty of bargains to be had!
7.30 pm 13th March at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes.
Tables of 4, price £10 per person to include a glass of wine and nibbles. Ticket sales will be announced on Facebook.
There will be a raffle and donation bar. (Prizes for the raffle gratefully received - see John or Hilary.)
Opendoors Annual General Meeting
Our AGM this year will take place on Thursday the 16th April 2020, 7 for 7.30pm at St. Andrew's Church Hall.
The meeting is open to all. We have new trustees to elect and a new set of priorities to agree.
One leading question to consider is, "Should we stop aiming to provide accommodation for local homeless individuals? Should we instead invest in improving the support we offer them as they try to get housing from others?"
If you are interested in finding out more about what we have been doing over the last year, and take part in discussions about our future then please make sure you have the date in your diary.
If you require any further information about the event please contact: John Saunders — Chair of Trustees:
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
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.
Our Annual Sponsored Sleepout
took place on Sat 11 January to 8am Sun 12 January 2020
St. Mary’s Church - Devizes
Armed with sleeping bags, mats and thermal underwear, 16 participants arrived at St Mary’s, Devizes oldest church, for the annual Sleep Out event with an ambitious plan to double the amount raised last year of £1,390. Having totted up the numbers, it looks like we will smash through that goal, with pledges of £4,000.
Through their JustGiving page, two local 9 year old girls and a 14 year old raised £1050. Local Accountancy firm David Owen, who have made Opendoors their charity for 2020, raised £1800 on the night through two participants.
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.
No Night Shelter in Devizes this Winter
Despite recent cold nights Devizes Opendoors trustees have decided not to open a trial night shelter during February and March. The plan had been to open at week-ends and during times when the temperature was forecast to be at or below freezing for three or more nights. However, trustees have just heard their application for a grant has not been successful. It is also now clear that some of those who have been sleeping rough have recently been helped to find accommodation in other towns by Wiltshire Council.
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