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.
Whilst the premises are provided rent free by St Albans City and District Council, and grants come from local authorities and government agencies, donations and new volunteers are always needed.
Kerry Pollard, who is now a Trustee 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. “
In 2008, the Charity and Hightown Housing Association decided to embark upon a major redevelopment project at Bricket Road. The Charity launched a fundraising appeal which raised some £300,000 to supplement a grant of £525,000 from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Places for Change programme.
On 12 April 2010, the newly refurbished Open Door was officially opened by the Worshipful Mayor and the new service began. The project benefited from a new build to the front of the building and the provision of 12 single en-suite bedrooms – a vast improvement over the previous 3 cramped bunk-bedded dormitories. Improvements were made in kitchen and laundry areas. The communal areas were upgraded and for the first-time computers installed for the users.
In 2016, the Charity paid for showering facilities to be installed which enables rough sleepers access to washing and showering facilities each day.
The Charity are passionate about the provision for rough sleepers in St Albans and thanks to supporters and volunteers we are able to continue this support into our 28th year.
David is Chair of Open Door and is also a Board Member of a special needs housing association based in Barnet but with a housing stock spread over southern England.
Following 13 years in local government David, a Chartered Town Planner, formed his own consultancy with offices in St Albans and Milton Keynes.
Lucy has been a trustee of the Open Door Charity since 2017. She currently oversees the Winter Beds Project. Lucy has worked in the Housing and Homelessness sector for over 12 years, most recently as Partnership Manager, managing joint housing and homelessness initiatives across eight London boroughs. She has experience of both policy and front line support work in housing and homelessness.
Lindsey has been a trustee and Treasurer of the Open Door Charity since 2010. She has recently retired from a career in finance with Hertfordshire County Council, and is enjoying having more time for community activities. In addition to her involvement with Open Door she is an active member of St Paul’s Church.
Jacqui has been a trustee of the Open Door Charity since 2017 and is currently Secretary to the Board. She is a partner in the property department at local solicitors firm SA Law LLP where she specialises in development work.
Kerry was MP for St Albans from 1997 to 2005. He is a long-serving trustee of the Open Door Charity, and was our Chair from 1995 to 2020. Kerry has always taken a close interest in housing the homeless and helping rough sleepers. In 1993, as Chair of the City‘s housing committee, he got together with several local churches to create the Open Door night shelter.
Peter has been a trustee of the Open Door Charity since 2007. He is currently Vice Chairman. Peter is a retired senior civil servant who since leaving work has been closely involved in charitable work in St Albans to support homeless and other socially deprived people. He was Chairman of Centre 33, a drop-in centre in St Albans, from 2003 until 2012 and still serves as a trustee.
Simon is a Baptist minister serving a church in the centre of St Albans where he has lived and worked for 15 years. Simon has been a volunteer with Centre 33 and helped launch the Winter Beds Project. Simon has been a trustee of Open Door since 2017.
Richard has been a trustee of the Open Door Charity since 2018. He also volunteers with the St Albans Good Neighbour Scheme, and has lived in the city since 1993. Until 2017 he was a communications officer with a Hertfordshire NHS trust, having previously worked in publishing.
Andy has been a trustee of the charity since March 2022. Living in Redbourn, Andy has worked for Google for the past 11 years, currently overseeing their partnerships with major broadcasters, sports and media groups in Europe, Middle East & Africa, and prior to this holding various positions in the company in the Asia Pacific region. Andy is also a Chartered Accountant, having begun his career at PWC, and a student mentor as part of the Inspire the Future program.
"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".