Open Door

Jun 4, 2018

Spitfire Girl Jackie Moggridge Book

At this month’s meeting we met Mark, a representative of Open Door, our chosen charity for the year. Mark was delighted we had chosen to support this local and very worthwhile cause and gave us a moving and informative talk on the good work that goes on there. Open Door is based in Mount Street Taunton. It is a day centre for homeless people who are rough sleepers. Open every weekday from 9.30 to 4.30 pm, it is run by volunteers and only four paid staff.

Sadly, there will be on average 25 people sleeping rough every night in Taunton. This figure has remained fairly constant over the last six years. Some are very visible as they can be seen in the empty shop doorways in the centre of town, but these are not typical of Taunton’s homeless and many more shelter in tents, backs of vans, sheds or polytunnels on allotments. Surprisingly, on average one new person per night will sleep rough for at least one night.

There are many misconceptions about who homeless people are. They are often perceived as scroungers who will spend donations on drink and drugs when for most, nothing could be further from the truth. Mark explained that while there are some common factors, each homeless person is an individual with many different reasons for their situation. Examples he gave ranged through redundancy from a high-pressured job, unfair dismissal, marriage breakdown and not being entitled to benefits after living abroad. Any use of drink or drugs was usually the consequence rather than the cause of their misfortune. Mental health problems, especially depression, are understandably often an issue too. Twenty percent of the clients are women, many of whom have had chaotic, volatile lives. They tend to be younger and are more vulnerable when living on the streets.

Whilst at the centre, clients can obtain hot meals and snacks, get a shower, wash clothes and find new ones from donations. They will find a warm and friendly welcome, companionship and stimulation. Activities on offer include cookery and music groups, craft, knitting and wellbeing activity such as gardening. The opportunity to sit and talk on a one to one basis where privacy is respected is also important to many. No-one is ever turned away but when they do have the means, clients are expected to pay £1 per day for attendance.

The centre liaises with Taunton Association for the Homeless and aims to find clients accommodation in hostels and ultimately rooms in houses from where they can go on to rebuild their lives and take their place in society again.

Members were anxious to learn how they could help the charity in practical ways as well as donating our cake money! Whilst Harvest Festival time yielded hundreds of tins of beans, other foods are equally welcome! Mark also highlighted the types of items always in demand such as toiletries, disposable razors, shampoo etc. and warm clothes for men and women.

After this most interesting talk it was back to the business of our AGM which saw the committee re-elected and Karen Janas returned as our president.

Next month’s meeting will be on 21 June 7.30 at the Beambridge. Our speaker will be talking about and demonstrating First Aid. New members and visitors are most welcome.

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