“I’m Only Doing This For One Night”

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On Saturday 23rd January, Doorway SleepOut 2016 took place in St Andrew’s Churchyard, Chippenham, 2 years after the previous one, and the 6th such event. The event was very successful, with around £10,000 being raised for Doorway funds. 34 people, including some Doorway guests, slept out overnight in and under variations of cardboard boxes, sleeping bags, tarpaulins and bits of plastic. The weather was much milder than  expected, but considerably wetter and windier. The SleepOut started with a service in the Church, and local World Music choir Lingmara performed (beautifully) during this and then in the Hall before the SleepOut began. As also in 2014, BBC Antiques Roadshow’s Marc Allum then read a ghost story to get people properly in the mood for sleeping in a graveyard…….

Lingmara, conducted by Tony Barby

Lingmara, conducted by Tony Barby

Marc Allum reading a ghost story

Marc Allum reading a ghost story

Here are words from some of the participants:


“I was thinking about what it means to be without a home, what it is to sleep rough on a regular basis, every night. And the conversation in my head soon became a riot, so I had to stop there. It’s just not acceptable – there should be no-one without a home in this day and age unless it’s personal choice. When I’m in my cardboard box somewhere out there tonight, my thoughts will be: “Thank God I’m not the only one in the graveyard, thank God there are people outside making sure that I’m safe. Thank God I have a home to go to. And Thank God that there are people who care” [Mary]

I struggled at first to determine whether it was a good thing to do or not a good thing to do.  I felt it might be patronising homeless people, but it isn’t. It’s supporting them, and about getting the word out that it’s a good thing to recognise that people are out there in the wet almost every day of the year, and don’t have the home comforts. I’ve got a nice bed to go back to tomorrow morning, a lot of people haven’t got that. [Mark]

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“I felt it might be patronising homeless people, but it isn’t. It’s supporting them”

I do give to charity, but actually, putting your hand in your pocket and contributing is easy. Actually giving up your time, or conquering a physical challenge I find more what I’m interested in. So being able to come out here, and spend the night in the cold, I think it’s a good idea. I think anything that raises the issue, and that gets people thinking about what it’s actually like to be on the streets – I can’t think of anything more horrifying, frankly. [Brian]

I’ve done this several times, actually. What is interesting is it becomes a bit of fun, but then the reality when you’re actually in the box, is that it’s not fun. And it never is fun. Because these people are homeless. And they haven’t nice warm homes to go to.  But you have to have that frivolity to get through. The good thing is everybody supports it and does it. But what about the homeless rough sleepers  in the summer months, in Spring, every day?  [Mary]

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We’re not giving up that much – we’ve got toilet facilities, we’ve got a nice hall here, tea and coffee and food, we’ve got people looking out for our health and safety, bacon sarnies in the morning. So I don’t want anybody to feel too sorry for us. [Brian]

I realise that I’m very lucky to have a job and a home, a roof over my head. And there are a lot of people at the moment. especially now., who are doing this overnight. And I just feel very very lucky that I’ve got what I’ve got, and it’s time I put something in to help other people to get themselves back on their feet. [Phil]

“to be on the streets – I can’t think of anything more horrifying”

What preparations have you made?

None apart from wearing far too many layers. I’ve got a box. I haven’t got a 3-storey detached home like some people out here. I’ve got a box that is already quite wet. [Mark]

I have a box I can fit in this time, which I didn’t have last time. And I’ve waterproofed my box, too, so that’s good. I’m all fully prepared. [Amy]

I’ve bivvied in the mountains before now, but nothing like this. I mean, in the mountains I’ve bivvied in bivvy bags, and you just dealt with it, so having to put up with cardboard boxes and plastic bags and things – I’ll just have to deal with it [Phil]

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In the morning:

Trying to get the shelter up was hard work, but we had a bit of help. We needed a third hand to hold stuff down. I think we were quite cosy, so it made it a bit easier really. It was more the rain coming in that I was a bit worried about, but we managed to keep dry. Even though the tarpaulin came off the end, and we had to put it back. It gave us a bit of an insight into what other people have to put up with, and made us realise how lucky we are. [Sharon, with son William]

I really enjoyed it. Apart from the rain. And my box fell apart! [Liz]

” I will seriously NOT consider doing it again”

People that weren’t taking part that walked through, it’s amazing how invisible you become out there. There’s all of these little shelters out there, and you’ve got people who blatantly don’t even see you. [Sharon]

It went very well! A little bit of rain, but nothing that made the night bad or anything like that, nice and cosy. And it opened your eyes to the experience that people have every day, and they lead their lives by it, you know? And a night like it is totally different to living your life like it, so you get some respect for what we do have, and you need to be more grateful for it, and help out those who are needier than we are. [Richard]

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It was alright, we got through it, didn’t we? We’re lucky, we only do it for one night. Dozed off now and again…..It was a bit wet, and a bit windy. And it wasn’t cold, which was very lucky considering what it was like the other weekend. Of course, SWEP kicks in when it’s very cold, but not when it’s very wet. We were very aware of that with our clients… very frustrating it is, that there’s so little we can do to help them. We’ve been cut back, but we still do as much as we can. [Liz and Desna of Wiltshire Citizens Advice]

It was alright, actually. I was out on the streets for about six months. It wasn’t through the winter, luckily enough. But I’ve stayed out in colder weathers. Yeah, it was enjoyable, and for a good cause, that’s the main thing. [Lee]

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“We were prepared for the cold, but not really the wet. And so unfortunately I got a bit wet. Which was when I came out by the fire. I am drying out now. I’m a bit cold but I’m alright. But you two fared better, didn’t you?” “Yes, I slept well, my shelter stayed alright. More a blanket than a shelter in the end, but that’s kind of alright. It worked, it was relatively waterproof” “We said we would do it again, but we’ll  learn from that and get some more tarpaulin. More tarpaulin, less cardboard. Or bigger cardboard. More thought into the construction. It wasn’t the most comfortable of nights. But I found myself laying there thinking “I’m only doing this for one night”.” “Exactly – we can go back to our own beds tonight, can’t we? Unlike the people that we’re doing it for. And they probably haven’t got layers and layers of thermals on, either.”[Kevin, Tracey and Kieran]

“it’s amazing how invisible you become out there”

It went well, but there was a bit of a flaw with the design of my waterproof, and I got absolutely drenched from the elbows up within 10 minutes of being in the box. Some of the rain must have got under the polythene, and the little flap on the polythene box moved when I moved, and suddenly I had a wet shower. But it was a really good experience, because it just shows what it’s like. I thought I was completely safe and dry for the night, and everything got soaked. And it just does  show you a little bit. Especially when you’re just trying to settle down afterwards and ignore that – because I was quite warm, but I was still pretty damp. So I now have more empathy – the thought of having to do this, night after night, it would be horrific. Also, to have you guys there, just knowing that we’re absolutely safe, whatever, makes a huge difference, because you are pretty vulnerable when you’re squidged in a box – you can’t defend yourself if someone decided to come and kick your box or whatever. [Imogen]

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Certainly had moments of reflection as the night went on. And, from a personal point of view, thinking about family members, who are now in different circumstances – huge, huge relief, but both still very vulnerable. You don’t find yourself in that kind of position overnight and you don’t come out of it overnight. Waking this morning feeling really knackered, really puts perspective on how it would be, and how bloody long the day would be ahead, and then thinking how relentless that would be if you can’t see an end to it. To have a degree of hopelessness I think, would just be crushing. [Anna]

” a night like it is totally different to living your life like it”

It was awful. I had a bad night, lack of sleep, and  ended up with my head out of the box because I felt very claustrophobic. It’s strange – it’s the wrong way round of course, one shouldn’t be claustrophobic when one is outside, but I did, I felt very claustrophobic. The box was slowly collapsing – it went from a cube to a flat diamond. But I didn’t get wet, and I slept…..my sleeping was perfect in the last hour, which is always the way – I got some solid sleep in about  the last hour. I will seriously NOT consider doing it again.  [Mark]

Even if you’ve got somewhere that’s absolute squalor, that’s still somewhere to sleep, and there’s a lot of people that don’t. [Gareth]

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The write-up from the Gazette and Herald is here.

Thanks to everybody who helped towards the success of this event – the ‘sleepers’, the organisers and stewards, the cooks, the singers, the St John’s, Marc, the Church for letting us use the Church, Hall and Churchyard, and many many others. The SleepOut certainly achieved its twin aims of raising both money and awareness. And the bacon sandwiches in stotty bread in the morning were very welcome indeed!

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“It’s just not acceptable – there should be no-one without a home in this day and age”

Posted in Charity, Chippenham, Homelessness, Wiltshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Poems by J

Why do dogs bark? Perhaps they know something we humans don’t.



Outside the supermarket

shoppers getting into their stride

and I’m left with their legs outside

and a whirl of trolley wheels.


Looking for a bargain?

Look at me I’m barking.

A warning or invitation to play

that’s your guess, if you dare.


So I’m anxious, who cares?

Be annoyed or amused, so what?

Angry, impatient or just spoilt

I’m Minnie. Here comes the boss

and there he goes, what’s he

forgotten this time

hope it’s not me

tied to this pole…bark! bark!


This poem speaks for itself too.

Somebody’s Home

Somebody’s home

Somebody’s calling

Somebody’s home

Somebody’s falling


Dark pools of night concrete and ice

An inhuman sacrifice


Count your blessings

Know your place

Focus on the human race

If one falls were all the less

Someone else clears up the mess


Whose mess is it anyway?


When the plans were drawn

And the future was omitted

They made me pay for their mistake

Just for their reputation’s sake





























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Information for the Sponsored SleepOut – 23rd January 2016

SleepOut photoMessage to all the lovely peeps who have expressed an interest in joining us for the sponsored SleepOut on Saturday 23rd January:

You need to make sure that you read the information pack before signing up, Especially the check list of items to bring along on the night.

You will be cold and miserable if you do not bring a big enough cardboard box, sleeping bag, torch and thermals etc. Actually you will be cold and miserable anyway but the provisions will make it just a little more bearable at 4am.

We don’t yet know what the weather forecast will be but historically the temperature has dropped to well below zero with the wind chill.

You will most definitely need to complete a registration form and bring it with you on the night. You will not be allowed to remain on site if you do not have this piece of paper for health and safety reasons.

There will be an ambulance on site and St John Ambulance first aiders who will need to have your medical information provided on the form in case of an emergency.

Any questions then please ask…

Huge thanks to everyone who is planning to support us on the night. You have no idea how grateful we are. We can raise a stonking £10,000 holding this event which is a huge amount of money!!!

Download the pack here:-   Doorway SleepOut 2016 info pack

Photos from the previous events can be found on our flickr page 

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The dogs need to be looked after as well as the owners

It has become apparent over the years that, during Doorway drop-in sessions, our dogs need to be looked after as well as our guests. Leaving them outside in the cold and the rain can be heartbreaking. Especially when they look at you, through the glass door, with big sorrowful brown eyes whilst shivering uncontrollably…

And so, very recently, we had one of those brilliant ‘lightbulb moments’ and sourced a couple of cheap pop up dog kennels to try out:-

This subsequently inspired our new Support Services Manager, Gail, to write a poem about the Doorway dogs:-

Winter is coming, there’s frost on the ground

It’s hard being homeless when you’re a hound

Cold tongues and noses, wet coats and feet

Are par for the course for a dog on the street

Furry surfers of sofas and seekers of sheds

Who dream of warm fires and comfortable beds

Who can’t go to the Council or bid for a flat

Who have to rely on a human for that

All that waiting outside; all that watching of doors

All that catching a wink on unsuitable floors

Living a life dodging different dangers

Living on luck and the kindness of strangers

It’s a dog’s life alright, and for humans as hard

It’s no good in the hood when you ain’t got a yard

But there’s rumours afoot in the Chippenham air

Re: temporary housing and bed space to spare

Tales are wagging and shaggy dogs telling

The news that they sense on the air they are smelling

They go down to Doorway and find out it’s true

“Hey doggies, we’ve got comfy kennels for you!”

One has a sniff and the other a lick

And one gives the new pop up kennels some stick

One crawls inside and another freaks out

“What on earth,” say the dogs, “is the tent thing about?

It’s hard to assimilate cultural change

The kennels, let’s face it, are awfully strange

But the humans look happy and that’s pretty neat

Always a good thing to keep humans sweet

And it’s really quite nice of them, thinking of us

Best use the things so they don’t make a fuss

Just crawl in and smile “Hey, this is quite cool!”

“Speak for yourself, mate, I feel like a tool”

“But it’s warmer in here, so maybe chill out?”

“Less of the ‘chill’, it’s the heat I’m about”

So went the debate, it was fairly immense

Till all dogs agreed that some stuff was intense

That the kennels were handy and kept out the cold

And that humans are weird and like, comedy gold

They were really quite glad that the kennels had popped up

That their core body temperatures had been topped up

And that folk gave them snacks and stuff for their dinner

Yep, the whole kennel thing was an actual winner

But lunchtime passed quickly and soon it was gone

It was time for the dogs to pack up and crack on

With doggy bags sorted they left with their folk

And went hunting for dog ends to roll up and smoke

Oh, housing’s a nightmare and tricky to handle

A difficult issue, an absolute scandal

But on Mondays and Thursdays the doggies can glamp

Pop up to the drop in and hang out and camp…

In between times the Doorway staff find with a frown

That what can pop up does not always pop down

The kennels are springy and just won’t play ball

And no-one can pack up the bu**ers at all

Goodness knows where they can stash ‘em or stick ‘em

Not one of them knows how to fold up and lick ‘em

It’s like playing Twister, such weird convolutions

Like trying to find flippin’ housing solutions

A couple of years ago A’s dog Wilf was featured in a video filmed by his son in Chippenham. Wilf is just about the hairiest dog I have ever seen and looks fantastic against the backdrop of a snowy winterland.

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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

Posted in Alcohol, Charity, Chippenham, Drugs, Homelessness, News, Wiltshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment