Homeless charity Doorway is moving into one of Chippenham’s most iconic and historic buildings thanks to the support of a local building company
The Castle Combe company, Stonewood has pledged to convert the 118-year-old Citadel Hall in Bath Road into a perfect base for the charity, which supports hundreds of people who are sleeping rough, sofa surfing or who are at risk of losing their homes.
Many of those Doorway helps have mental health issues or drug and alcohol addiction and as well as food and emotional support, the charity’s staff provide housing and benefit guidance, practical support and help connect guests to health and advice services.
Director Jo Kitching said the move will allow Doorway, currently based at the Salvation Army Hall in Foghamshire, to expand its services, open for longer and help more people.
Ms Kitching said: “The move gives us a massive opportunity to do more of what we need to do and bring everything that is scattered about the town into one place.
“All of our food is in two private garages in the town, our offices are on Station Hill and we have drop-in and clothes storage at the Salvation Army Hall so having everything in one place is going to be transformational.”
Stonewood will be working at cost to replace all the ground floor flooring, build a new kitchen and install a disabled toilet and shower as well as redecorating throughout.
Staff are busy planning the move, which should be complete by the beginning of July. Having more space will allow it to expand its opening days from its present two to four by the end of the year, growing to five by next year. Partners such as Wiltshire Council’s rough sleeper outreach worker and Turning Point addiction advisors will be offered private consultation space.
“We have had some ideas about addiction recovery groups and some more literacy work,” said Mrs Kitching. “We also want to be able to get our guests more involved in our activities. We have some particularly talented musicians and writers who could be running a group or at least helping run it.”
She said the group will also be able to extend work with care leavers and looked after young people over 16. “We need to work with the young people separately and offer them their own safe space,” she said. “At the moment they have to be with the main group and that can be very intimidating and not necessarily appropriate.”
The additional financial burden of the rent and running a larger operation will mean even more fundraising for the group. “We will be looking for funders in the town to help us,” said Ms Kitching. “The top floor is a big open room with a dance floor where we can hold fundraising events – and we’ll be able to let it out to get extra income.”
She said having such a prestigious new home is important for Doorway’s guests. “In a sense it is like bringing Doorway into the open and out of the shadows,” she said. “In the past we have wanted to give people a really safe place which was kind of invisible but really this is something the community needs to know about and understand better. There’s no reason why we can’t be seen to be in the middle of the town and our guests need to feel that they deserve better.”
The Citadel was built by the Salvation Army in 1903 but it was found to be too small and prone to flooding so the owners moved to the former Co-op hall in Foghamshire in 1971. Since then it has been used by North Wiltshire District Council and was a Tourist Information Centre, before most recently being used as a mail-drop centre for Mailboxes Etc.
Ms Kitching said: “There was no question that The Citadel is brilliant for us and not just because of the space but because of the name of it as well, it is perfect. We are so grateful to Stonewood for its support and we know they will do what’s right for the building.”
For more about how to help Doorway go to doorwayproject.org.uk