Expansion plans for St Albans homeless charity

Sir Kier Starmer visited St Albans parlimentary hopeful Kerry Pollard at Open Door

Sir Kier Starmer visited St Albans parlimentary hopeful Kerry Pollard at Open Door - Credit: Archant

A local night shelter is spearheading new initiatives to try and eradicate rough sleeping in St Albans.

Open Door on Bricket Road. Picture: Kerry Pollard

Open Door on Bricket Road. Picture: Kerry Pollard - Credit: Archant

For more than 20 years Open Door in Bricket Road has provided shelter, food, and a warm bed for people who would otherwise be on the street - now, it wants to go further to help patrons break the cycle of homelessness.

It will encourage shelter users to set up mini companies together in order to earn a wage and learn skills.

The work generated would centre around helping the community, with groups of two or three people teaming together to carry out activities like gardening and decorating.

Open Door is also setting up a buddying scheme so rough sleepers always have someone to turn to in times of need.

This would be a volunteer who would remind them of doctor’s appointments, connect them with support networks if required, and generally be a friend when needed.

The charity is also looking to set up bed-sits in houses around the city, where people can temporarily live in a spare room with all the facilities they need, but off the street.

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Open Door founder and former MP Kerry Pollard said he believes it is the best night shelter in the country: “If you provide beds for the night, that’s fine and we need to do that, but we are not actively trying to break the cycle of rough sleeping.”

Open Door currently has 12 rooms, five mattresses, and five beds at Trinity United Reformed Church.

He added: “What we have got to do is make success stories more the norm than the exception, and that’s what we are aiming for. It’s going to take a lot of effort and it’s going to take more volunteers with different skills - we have people to make beds and meals, which are vital, but what we want is new volunteers who can be your friend.

“They will be a good friend, not in an oppressive or intrusive way, just asking if their buddy fancies going out together, asking how they are getting on and if they remembered to go to the doctor’s appointment, just being a friend.”

He says all these schemes will help homeless people to be ready to make a life off the street successfully, describing a productive day’s work as “powerful”.

“We want to build their self-confidence and self-esteem so they feel part of society, not outside of society.

“That is a big challenge and if the last thing I can do for St Albans is develop the night shelter forward, I will be pleased.”

Open Door volunteers will be at St Albans market on April 7 to talk about the plans and hand out literature.