Since 1993 Open Door, with the help of the St Albans’ community, has supported over 7,000 people who have experienced homelessness and been at risk of sleeping rough. The Charity funds improvements to the Open Door shelter, as well as covering the costs of outreach services and the volunteer coordinator.
Hightown Housing Association now operates the Open Door facility.
The Open Door Charity focusses its efforts on fundraising to support and develop homelessness services, and recruiting new volunteers.
Kerry Pollard, who is now Chair of the Open Door Charity, was Chair of the St Albans housing committee for several years – and MP for St Albans from 1997 to 2005.
Here he explains the history of provision for rough sleepers in the city.
“In 1993 a group of local churches got together with me as Chair of Housing. Our objective was to help the rough sleepers in St Albans, and our ideas focused on providing a ‘night shelter’.
We moved quickly, searching for a central location, and were fortunate that an office space over a business in Lattimore Road was empty. We were offered it rent free for our shelter.
We furnished the shelter with six mattresses, and facilities for making tea and toast, and were ready to go! The shelter was run entirely by untrained but very enthusiastic volunteers, including Bishop James O’Brien and Dr Mary Groves.
For the first few nights we had no clients at all, but gradually it took off.
Next stage was to look for central and more spacious premises: St Albans Council owned a building, at 8 Bricket Road, which was used by several organisations – including the Ver Poets.
When it became vacant in 1993, I proposed that the Council turn the premises over to Open Door for use as a night shelter. The Council agreed that this would be good use of the building, and has continued to support Open Door to this day.
We quickly turned the building into four large dormitories, three allocated for men, and one for women.
We worked with St Albans Churches Housing Association, who managed the shelter on a day-to-day basis. That role is now carried out by the Hightown Housing Association.
The Open Door Charity embarked on a major fund-raising exercise, having decided that we wanted to radically improve the facilities at Open Door.
The idea was to create self-contained single rooms, each with shower and toilet – giving dignity to our clients. A substantial grant was obtained from central government thanks to the Council – again demonstrating their commitment to the night shelter.
The Charity raised a lot of money from the generous people of St Albans – and the scheme then went ahead.
I have visited night shelters in several towns and cities and I can say that Open Door St Albans is second to none. St Albans can be proud of the service offered to our rough sleepers.
With the ongoing support of the local community we will continue to expand the scope and quality of the Open Door service. “
"The Open Door Charitable Trust has been the vehicle for many specialist projects to help the homeless in St Albans. From funding the local outreach worker, to providing additional bed spaces during cold winter weather, the Trust quietly works behind the scenes. “The impact of this work is enormous. They help shape our local response to rough sleeping, and support innovative ways for the local community to engage in this important issue. Whether its funding, resources, expertise, or industry knowledge, the Trust forms an integral part of the local response to rough sleeping".