Doorway first opened the doors to a drop-in session on the 5th January 2004. Originally called “North Wiltshire Homelessness Project”, the project has managed to survive both the good times and the bad times, thus enabling it to grow and evolve into the successful independent charity that it is today.
Doorway is one of those extraordinary places where highly effective services are provided, for the most marginalised in our community, at a far lower costing than in the public sector. And I believe that this is only achievable due to:-
- The fierce passion and commitment of the 5 part-time members of staff;
- The extraordinary dedication and support of a team of around 50 volunteers who perform a multitude of tasks both in frontline service provision but also in background tasks and as ambassadors for our organisation at public events.
- The expertise and knowledge of our Board of Trustees, with special mention to the roles of Chair and Treasurer for the sheer amount of work that it necessary to keep a charitable organisation running with good practice
- Lastly and most importantly, our local community for both financial support and contributions in kind.
There have been a few horrible times throughout the 10 years of Doorway history when we very nearly ran out of funding and were forced to consider procedures for winding down our operations. However, on each occasion we have survived due to sheer determination not only from ourselves but also from the local churches, businesses and individuals who took it upon themselves to see us through the dark times and back out again on the other side.
But what really is it that makes the Doorway services so effective?
I believe that it is due to our belief that everyone who walks through the door is equal, whether they are staff, volunteers, visitors or guests.
No one deserves to be treated differently from anyone else. We treat everyone like human beings, not like statistics and what might seem like trivial things are actually the most important – i.e. we remember their names year after year, we give our guests birthday cards every year and sometimes our card might be the only one that someone receives. We give them Christmas presents and Easter eggs, and we all share the laughter, the anger, the frustration and the tears.
And that is the basis for the Doorway ethos, we are all part of a large, extended and sometimes chaotic family. And in this contemporary society where communities and families are breaking down we can provide that safe place where the most marginalised people can feel like they are part of a community. Amongst like-minded individuals. And that is really important for a person’s sense of wellbeing.
So much of our work is spent in compiling “hard” outcomes for funders that sometimes it is hard 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 statistics and how many people have gained employment or housing, it’s more 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 they have to face.
But none of our work could be done in isolation – we rely on partnership working with so many other organisations in many different ways. And if you think about the bizarrely eclectic mix of people that we work with or who support us then the variety of groups and individuals is actually quite staggering. From community groups like the brownies & scouts to big corporate organisations, from small local charities to national umbrella organisations, from the media to the churches, from primary schools to WI groups.
I can honestly say that not only do I never know what will happen next in my job but I also never know who I am going to be talking to next, from a street rapper to the lord lieutenant, and that makes it all so much fun.
So, this week we celebrate our ten year anniversary. Which is somewhat ironic since in an ideal world there would never be any need for our service. However, the world is not ideal and in fact the need for our service is increasing week by week due to the increasingly complex issues that our guests face in their lives. And so, we will celebrate the fact that Doorway is continuing to exist as an independent, impartial organisation that is able to carry on standing up and speaking out on behalf of those who are rarely listened to in our society.
Lisa Lewis, Chief Executive
Volunteer Stories – Sue
“My name is Sue and I’m one of the original volunteers at Doorway. When I joined it was called the Homelessness Project and all we could offer was food, clothing, some sign posting and a safe, confidential place where no-one was judged and everyone could just ’be’.
Things have changed a lot since that January in 2004. We have developed what we can offer, strong community links have been forged, respect and recognition of what we try to do have grown in the town, we consult others but now we are consulted too so that we can offer a better and better service to our guests.
Being a volunteer at Doorway is a great joy and privilege especially when guests begin to change their lives for the better because of something said or learned or shared at the drop in. To see confidence and self belief slowly grow, to see courage to make changes of life style even when that decision comes at the cost of breaking away from the familiar faces and places, to see heads held high and faces determined – these are the things that make being a volunteer at Doorway, through the good times and the tough times, a hugely rewarding experience.
Long may the very necessary work of Doorway continue in this town.”
Volunteer Stories – Beryl
“On the first Monday in January 2004, the 2 staff & 3 volunteers on duty had no guests – but the grapevine soon brought in more & more, particularly after the policy of serving ‘All-day Breakfast’ replaced the 2 course meal: apparently a Full English fry-up had more appeal than shepherd’s pie at 9.30am.
Numbers of staff & volunteers also increased and roles became more specialised with some concentrating on cooking, others dealt with sorting clothing – such as a sackful of socks from Lost Property at a boy’s school which took most of a session to pair up and still left many odd half-pairs – and food whilst a few developed a love-hate relationship with the washing machines.
Activities ranging from music & table tennis to I.T. & crafts have flourished. Guests can read or chat to the rhythms of Music Workshops upstairs or dodge ping-pong balls at the coffee table.
Occasionally, those who have moved oninto accommodation, work or new relationship, call-in with their news. This all contributes to an extended family atmosphere where current guests can access information & advice in the non-judgemental environment of the Drop-in.”