No Surprises Living in Devizes: Opening Doors

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A client chats at OpenDoors. Picture courtesy of Devizes OpenDoors


While I postponed my midmorning nap on Wednesday and made my way to St John’s Parish Rooms, a dweeb in London held a little red case to snapping cameras.

I do not fear his pale red cases, with no reasonable strategy inside them. Families under financial pressure, Hammond said he understands, and chose “a balanced approach;” he said, and said those words, he said them, but he lied them.

Instead the fix-it-up chappie waved £3bn off to ensure Brexit runs smoothly, and hey, just ask if you need more stars on thars.

In a week where a government ‘free of Europe’ pathetically announced legal recognition of animals as “sentient beings” will not be incorporated into UK law, anyone with a heart sunk and begun to digest what England will really be like when we leave, under the, apparently, regime of current savages.

Meanwhile he joshed the deputy speaker a Merry Christmas, announced he was freezing taxes on alcohol, trimming a quid off a bottle of whisky, but under the same breath, whacked the price up of cider (that’s on the cheap, high-strength stuff – Editor), habitually bought by people on low-income; a shameful reflection on the entire budget.

So despite convalescing from last week’s backlash of scornful comments from Tory-loving hypocrites, I find myself no option but to “bash” again.

I cannot stop, they’re squeezing the poor and rewarding the rich, when will basic humanity kick in? If animals are beyond hope, humans ought to at least be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what their circumstances.

Yet councils continue issuing fines to homeless for sleeping in doorways or pitching tents. Winter looming, you can’t camp, can’t afford a cheap bottle of plonk to warm you and numb the stress. The solution isn’t whacking up the price; it’s support, it’s giving them a light at the end of the tunnel.

Recent reports estimate 300,000 people now sleep rough on Britain’s streets, and if you’re not a people-person, consider the cost of preventing and cracking homelessness is far less than the cost of doing nothing.

In Devizes we have minor homeless issues. Still I stand like a loose lemon while Angie Carpenter, the coordinator of Devizes OpenDoors potters about, juggling counselling a person with a pending court case, putting marigolds on to clean and also, talks to me about the work they do here.

Now I beg, don’t run away with the presumption I’m aiming guns at you, just because you’re Conservative, I’m aware some locally support and actively engage with this worthy cause, I’m merely pointing the finger at a system which leaves people vulnerable.

The wonderful thing about Devizes is, apolitically, many assist and support this group, and that it is, by comparison, a small-time operation.

Still, as I observe a young girl sort through a pile of donated clothes and beam when she finds a warm hat which meets her approval, I note Devizes OpenDoors is a necessity for these few.

I’m there towards the end of the session; there’s usually about fifteen to thirty people coming in, they’ve finished breakfast; a cooked meal and cereals or fruit.

I asked Angie if this number has increased recently, as National Audit Office stats show a 134% rise in rough sleepers and a 60% for households living in temporary accommodation since 2010. But she clarified it was quite stable. In the summer they get more, as travellers pass through, “you might only see them once or twice a year,” she explained.

For the people here today there was a calm community spirt, no harassment, no cross-words and no pestering of any kind.

There are books to take along with clothes, fresh bread, fruit, biscuits and tinned food, plus the tea urn is constantly boiling. There’s washing facilities and advice leaflets. Lidal, Morrisons and M&S all donated food, people genuinely only took what they needed and much was left, to be collected by passing Michelle of the Food Bank.

Angie has volunteered here for two-and-a-half years out of the six OpenDoors has had its doors open, and she has ambitious plans to create a hostel. The Parish Rooms are open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for only a few hours, and on Thursday for more one-to-one sessions. Ideally, longer periods daily would benefit the people.

Angie was delighted the concert on Saturday had raised over a thousand pounds and the sponsored sleep-outs allow people to come to terms with the realities faced; still this operation needs exposure, and needs more volunteers.

The hostel project needs backing, she told me how Anzac House would’ve suited, but it wasn’t to be. For more information about OpenDoors and how you can get involved: click here.

In conclusion then, am I Bam-Bam Rubble, overzealous with “bashing?” I noted Claire Perry voted for this crazy non-recognition of animals as “sentient beings” and dispatched my concerns.

I think Claire now acknowledges she need respond asap; here’s her reply:
“To be clear: the idea that my colleagues and I somehow do not accept that animals are sentient beings is quite honestly ludicrous. This vote was on a very specific amendment about EU regulations, and whilst we support the sentiment of the amendment, there were concerns about some specifics, and we thought it much better to use our own legal system to continue to deliver strong animal welfare protection – we have among the strongest animal protections in Europe and intend to keep them that way. As you will know, we have high welfare standards on farms, do not allow cockfighting or bull fighting and have a proud tradition of animal protection.
You may know that there are already provisions in UK law, such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which recognise that if an animal is capable of experiencing pain and suffering, then it is sentient and afforded protection under that Act, and the Minister assured the House during the debate that “Animals will continue to be recognised as sentient beings under domestic law”.
I have made clear a number of times that I myself am a huge animal lover, and I can assure you that the UK Government has a proud history of protecting animal rights, which will not be affected by our departure from the EU. Indeed, based on the Animal Welfare Act, the Animal Protection Index rates the UK’s formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A, whereas other EU countries such as France, Italy and Spain have a much lower rating of grade C.
But that is not what the vote on Wednesday was about. The vote was a question not of ends, but means. The amendment proposed would have limited practical impact, and ran the risk of creating legal uncertainty. However, the Minister made clear that the Government supports the sentiment of the proposed amendment, and he reassured the House that: “One way or another, we need it [animal sentience] to be present in UK law at the end of this.” He went on to make clear that we intend not only to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the EU, but to enhance them by having the freedom to develop our own gold-standard protections on animal welfare.
Don’t be fooled by the trouble-making SNP party on something as important as animal welfare!”

Perhaps it’s media hysteria; I’ll take Claire’s word and leave you aghast; has that Worrow bloke turned blue, has he metamorphosed from basher to conservative partisan, by one nice letter? Don’t hold your breath.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill has been in place since April, obliging councils to begin the assessment of people at risk of losing their home sooner. Rebuking claims it takes a light-touch approach to dealing with the issue, the government promised to invest £550m by 2020.

Homelessness charity Shelter wants the government to end the freeze on housing benefit and pledge affordable home building.

All I know is, while they squabble over preventing the causes of homelessness, they cleared ours from Dews Pond Wood, and benefits are still being slashed more than victims of Michael Myers.

People still need help, and whilst they do we should be thankful for these hard-working volunteers as they plan a Christmas dinner at OpenDoors.

So I urge you, if you can donate, offer a few hours a week of your time to help, please do.

DARREN WORROW

 

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