Introduction to Doorway
Doorway is open to people over 16 who are affected by homelessness, or are marginalised because they have complex needs including physical or mental health issues, poor life skills, debt, substance use or learning difficulties.
“Doorway, as the name implies, is an opening to a new and better life and without their help and support I know I wouldn’t be in a position to say that ‘Yes I have got a new life'” Doorway Guest
Homelessness is often an invisible problem in rural areas like North Wiltshire. Unlike the big cities, rough sleepers are rarely seen. Rather than sleeping on the streets, people who find themselves without a roof in Chippenham are often taken in by friends. They are the ‘Hidden Homeless’ of North Wiltshire.
Doorway is a day centre located in The Salvation Army Hall, Foghamshire, which is easily accessible in the centre of Chippenham, close to the shops, transport and services such as the Job Centre and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau
Doorway currently operates two open access drop-in sessions each week – Monday morning and Thursday afternoon. During each session we provide:
- freshly prepared hot meals
- laundry facilities
- clothing parcels
- sleeping bags
- one-to-one support from trained staff
- signposting to specialist support and advice services
- use of telephone for official calls
- an address for official correspondence
- a venue for social workers, drugs workers etc to interview guests
- activities such as
- table tennis
- computer games
- music improvisation sessions
- supervised IT sessions with internet access
- creative writing
Why we don’t charge
One of the questions we are regularly asked is why we don’t charge for the services we provide during these sessions. The most important reason involves “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”
Doorway needs to provide for the bottom layer of the pyramid (i.e. guests’ basic needs) before we can attempt to address any issues further up the pyramid. We don’t charge for food, washing or showers because this is how we encourage people through our door in the first place.
Once they are in the session and ready to engage, we use our extra activities to help guests move up the layers of the pyramid. Sometimes they only need to visit us once to get the help that they require, but very often it takes a long time to break down the barriers, to build trusting relationships and to move people on in their lives.
As Doorway celebrates our tenth birthday this year it is worth looking at why there is a need for the organisation to exist in the first place and the common theme running through all the different stories of our guests is that of social exclusion.
Social exclusion is formally defined as “the failure of society to provide certain individuals and groups with those rights and benefits normally available to its members, such as employment, adequate housing, health care, education and training etc”
Now we at Doorway are unable to actually eradicate the numerous instances of social exclusion for those who are accessing our service but what we can do, very successfully, is minimise the damage caused by the failure of society to provide those rights and benefits.
And so, over the last year we have worked very hard at empowering our guests to develop a resilience to the constant battering they may get from both statutory agencies and society as a whole, both of which build barrier after barrier to them accessing the services that they so deserve as human beings.
This is achieved by building on the basic foundations of the extra activities that we provide for our guests – the football training, music workshops, writing group and the women’s group – which have all played a major part in our aim of increasing the motivation and self-worth of those who access our services. This has subsequently enabled our guests to have more confidence in tackling those everyday issues in their lives concerning addictions, housing, finances and debts, unemployment and mental health issues all of which contribute to the general feeling of isolation and of social exclusion.
So much of our work at Doorway is spent in compiling ‘hard’ outcomes for funders that sometimes it is difficult to remember that the ‘soft’ outcomes matter just as much to people on a daily basis – we can make someone feel better about themselves for even just a short period of time each week. It’s not all about the statistics and how many people have gained employment or housing, it’s often about the journey towards those goals and involves increasing self-confidence, self-worth, and motivating people to not give up along the way no matter how many hurdles are thrown at them by both statutory agencies and society as a whole.