My Hertfordshire Life – Open Door’s Joan Bailey
PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 February 2014 | UPDATED: 17:01 08 February 2014
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The chairman of St Albans charity Open Door describes the work that has helped thousands of homeless people in the city
What is Open Door? Open Door is a charity which works to ensure that no-one need sleep rough in St Albans and to help homeless people in our community change their lives.
How does the charity work? Open Door contributes funding to the running of a daytime drop in service and our night shelter has offered a bed to more than 7,000 people over the past 20 years.
One of the most important and successful services at Open Door is the Safe Streets Outreach Service. Since it began in 2011, it has worked with rough sleepers in St Albans, bringing many of them into Open Door.
The charity also funds severe weather beds when the temperature falls below zero. During last year’s long, cold winter, which lasted into April, these beds provided an extra 421 bed spaces throughout the period, using camp beds in the lounge area at Open Door.
How did you get involved? As a senior civil servant I set up the government’s Rough Sleeping Unit and produced a strategy for reducing rough sleeping called Coming in from the Cold. It was the forerunner to many of the policies and practices pursued at Open Door today. When I retired in 2008, I became aware of Open Door through my former boss. I discovered the long term chairman was retiring, and thought it would be a perfect chance for me to give something back to the community. I became a trustee, and then the chairman of Open Door and have been so ever since.
What do you find most satisfying about your role? I am constantly amazed by the resilience of human beings. People can be in a bad place but, with the help of organisations such as Open Door, we can give them a light at the end of the tunnel, a reason to keep going.
What have you learnt working with Open Door? Homelessness is far more than not having a roof over your head. When a home is lost, all physical and emotional security is taken away and this makes it extremely difficult to cope with. Becoming homeless can happen to anyone. People become homeless for lots of different reasons, sometimes quickly and in circumstances beyond their control. Relationship and family breakdown, coming out of prison, losing your job – these are just some of the reasons why people arrive at Open Door.
How can people help? There are various ways people can help, from volunteering to fundraising. Our website (opendoorstalbans-district.org) gives details about how to volunteer or donate as well as an A to Z of fundraising ideas. Our main fundraising event is the annual Sleepout at St Albans Abbey, which this year took place on December 6.
Has Open Door got any New Year resolutions? We want to continue to support the provision of high quality services locally for vulnerable people in crisis situations and to work towards ensuring that no-one needs to sleep rough in St Albans.