It will come when it comes

It will come when it comes

Winter is approaching and unless we can escape to the southern hemisphere for a few months we can’t avoid it; the colder weather, the rain and gales and short dreary days. For many people this is a challenging time of year but may be more so if contending with homelessness, an uncertain tenancy or poor physical and/or mental health. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a well-documented condition that even in a mild form can make winter seem an endless misery. The spectre of Christmas can also bring a chill all of its own; for some a time of celebration with family and friends that throws into sharp relief the cheerless and lonely experience it is for others.

I don’t mind winter. I like the ebb and flow of the seasons but winter often makes me feel I need to hibernate—not for the whole three months but I could easily lose a couple of weeks before the winter solstice. After this the promise of the sun’s return helps wake me up.

I’d not set a theme for our recent writing session but there was a wintery mood about. One of our guests, J, who had never attended the writing group, was unsure what to write and where to start but definitely didn’t want to write a poem. I am wary of being too prescriptive as I know if I say write this or that then what is produced won’t be what the guest wants or needs to write. A more subtle prompt can come from looking at pictures or photos. I have word-cards that can be chosen intuitively, as well as a lucky-dip bag full of small items that when retrieved might inspire a response. Other people’s writing can also set things rolling. Lately I’ve been reading poems by Elizabeth Bishop and Charles Causley, very different poets but both very acute observers who produce very readable poems. I used to feel daunted by well-written poetry or prose, because I felt I never could be that accomplished, but now I am more positive and try to be inspired by them rather than overwhelmed. I’ve also learned that a good poem takes time and patience. You can’t hurry a poem but sometimes a poem comes when it’s needed and can seem like gift.

In the end I gave J some paper and a pen and this is what he wrote:

So Long To Wait

I’m here because I was feeling depressed.

I don’t have any hope at the moment

so long to wait

4 weeks before things might get better

seems like a lifetime to wait so long.

Better here than wait at home?


I love seagulls – never go to the seaside

never go on holiday—

haven’t been on holiday for 40 years

since I was at school.

Winter coming now – 6 months of dark and cold

no leaves on the trees, very depressing future.

By J O

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In which we find out that not everyone is tolerant and compassionate….

…of those who choose to live their lives outside society’s norms.

One of our long term entrenched rough sleepers left us in the summer of 2014 to move on to a very small village in the deepest depths of Somerset. He had been in our area for years and we had, very early on, signposted him to mental health services and attempted to get him housed. However, J didn’t want any help. He didn’t want to be housed and he didn’t like his daily routine being upset. He kept himself to himself and bothered no one. The only time he interacted with the public outside our drop-in sessions was to fill up his travel mug with tea from the local cafes & restaurants.

Then one day he just disappeared and we were very concerned about his welfare. And then rather extraordinarily, the postmaster at a small village post office in Somerset contacted me in the Doorway office to ask me to send down any post that we had received for J.

The postmaster has been in touch with me regularly, since J’s arrival in the area, to keep my updated on his welfare. The villagers were looking after him and making sure that his post was getting to him and he was being fed etc. I even spoke to the local Council who were aware of his presence in the area but not particularly bothered since there was no cause for alarm and J wasn’t causing any trouble.

However, very recently, J moved from the village since the flight plans at the local air base were changed and helicopters started regularly low flying over his field which obviously distressed him enough that he needed to move location.

I have just had an update from the village postmaster  and he says that J has now moved on to another village who are so intolerant of him that the villagers have all united together and raised a petition to get him physically removed from the area.

J is totally harmless. He has no alcohol or drug dependencies. He is on the autistic spectrum and just wants to be left alone to live his life outside and by himself with no interference from the public. He doesn’t want to be housed and has his own reasons for living the lifestyle that he chooses.

Shame on the entire village for their lack of compassion…

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 Hi all, I grew up in Cyprus (RAF) mollycoddled and poor, the most wonderful childhood. 9 years in all, total freedom, add to that Malta, Gibraltar, Germany etc.

Then we landed in Calne. Culture shock or what!

I already knew how to fight, they teach boxing in my schools, but nothing prepared me for Wiltshire. It certainly added a new dimension.

Then I ran off the rails, became an alcoholic. Name a drug and I’ve done it. Was homeless for 10 years, lived in a bus, caravans, tents or just under a hedge.

My Dad said “why can’t you just settle down!”

Dad! You’ve dragged me round the world and expect me to settle down!

My point is the lovely people of Wiltshire have settled me down, and put up with me. I’ve never met people who will ground you like this before. I love this county and all who live here and that’s it I’m done.

Big shout to Doorway in Chippenham. Fantastic people who helped me so much in my darkest days. Love you all.

Oh and by the way if anyone needs a carpenter….

Neil June 2015

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A “Green” Bag-Packer (The Reward)

WOW: I am truly honoured to have been invited to Sainsbury’s this morning for the Cheque Presentation for Sainsbury’s Chippenham Charity of the Year 2014-2015.  Doorway was presented by Sainsbury’s a Cheque for an AMAZING (I hope you are sitting down) £8510.91.

I would like to Thank Michelle,Darren,Rory,Katie,Jacqui and Di (thanks for the delicious piece of cake) for hosting us this morning. Special Thanks to all the Staff and Customers who did an awesome job helping raise the FANTASTIC amount. Good luck to the next Charity to be chosen, you will be in fantastic hands.

Feel really proud to have given my time over the past 12 months to help raise the money, although my part was very small. Thanks again to Lisa and team Doorway for allowing me to take part, I really had a brilliant time.

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Doorway Spring Fair

Many thanks to everyone involved in the organisation of the Spring Fair and manning the stalls on the day. And huge thanks, also, to everyone who supported the event by either donating items or buying stuff on the day.

Current total is at a whopping £3125.21


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Doorway Spring Fair

Had a great day helping out on the book stall at the Spring Fair today. From a guests point of view the following need a a special mention.

To St Andrew’s Church Chippenham thank you for hosting the event.

To the public for putting their hands in their pockets and helping raise funds for a most deserving charity.

A SPECIAL thank you to all the volunteers of Doorway and beyond for your much appreciated help in making the fair a raving success.



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The light at the end of the tunnel came too late – My Word published in the Gazette & Herald Newspaper – April 2015

 If you read my column last month then you will remember that two of our rough sleepers failed the Pereira Test since they were deemed, by the council, not to be any more vulnerable than “an ordinary homeless person”

 It’s really rather ironic and devastatingly sad that one of those guys has since died. Which proves that he was actually really rather vulnerable after all.

 And yes, it will be extremely easy for anyone to just write him off as being homeless and substance dependent but it is worth remembering that he was desperately trying to get help to not only come off the drugs but also to get treatment for hepatitis, find suitable supportive accommodation and get himself sorted.

 Desperately trying to get help in what we, at Doorway, call the catch-22 fridge situation…

 See, standard treatment for hepatitis C is only possible if you can store your medication (Interferon) in a fridge. And if you are homeless then you haven’t got a fridge. But you can’t get a fridge because someone has decided that you aren’t priority need and therefore the council doesn’t have a statutory duty to find you accommodation. But the fact of the matter is that you are unable to start treatment and therefore you are really rather vulnerable. It’s really not rocket science.

 In 2012, Moses (a volunteer at Wiltshire Addiction Support Project) walked 200 miles around Wiltshire with a fridge in order to raise awareness of this very issue. Moses, who was a Falklands veteran and formerly homeless, suffered from the virus but was unable to access treatment since he was living in a caravan and didn’t have a fridge.

“There are a lot of people who are diagnosed with hepatitis C like myself that are homeless so they are missing out on treatment, and I wanted to raise awareness of it. I am hoping that it will do something towards the stigma.”

 Three years later and not only is the condition still not recognised as being of a high priority, but there is still a huge amount of stigma attached to actually having the illness.

 The bottom line is that K was extremely vulnerable. He had ongoing long term mental health issues which led to him being very fragile. But there is very little support for people who have a dual diagnosis – a mental health condition co-occurring with substance misuse. It is impossible to treat someone for these issues separately and yet there has been, in our experience, very little overlap within the two spheres of provision of support. He also had serious physical health issues that needed treatment. Basically K was on a crash course to developing serious long term medical conditions that could very easily be fatal.

 Depending on other risk factors, such as alcohol use, between 10% and 40% of people with untreated chronic hepatitis will go on to develop scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Around one in five people with cirrhosis will then develop liver failure, and one in 20 will develop liver cancer, both of which can be fatal.

 So whilst people sat around making decisions about his levels of vulnerability they delayed him getting into a safe place, and forgot that he was a human being who was totally reliant on a stranger having a bit of compassion and just giving him a little bit of support when he needed it most.

 And that bloody breaks my heart. Because I saw K week after week, year after year, and I sat and listened to him every time he broke down and sobbed. And we were just at the point where he actually had the chance to get a room in supported accommodation, he was engaging with the substance misuse services, and he was waiting for his hepatitis treatment. He walked out the door on that day and gave me a hug because he could see the light at the end of the very long dark tunnel and he knew that he had a chance to make everything okay.

 And 5 days later he was dead in hospital.

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