Clock is ticking, but DENS day centre team still hope

Time is running out to find vital funding to keep the doors of a ‘lifesaving’ day centre for Dacorum’s homeless open.

The DENS base in Hemel Hempstead town centre may have to shut its doors if the cash can’t be found to fill a £179,000 shortfall in the charity’s funding, created by the reduction and lapse of certain grants it has come to depend on.

DENS day centre manager Wade Dingle.

DENS day centre manager Wade Dingle.

Day centre manager Wade Dingle, who has worked for DENS for almost four years, says it has managed to secure extra small grants to tide over the service – which costs £120,000 to run annually – for another month, but DENS depends on being successful in its latest Big Lottery application if the day centre is to survive past its March 31 D-day.

Wade believes the state of homelessness in the borough is such that it is not just a case of keeping the day centre open, but needing to expand it to cope with rising demand.

A ‘full’ sign is stuck to the front door of Bury Lodge on Queensway on a daily basis, when the centre’s maximum capacity of 18 is reached.

The centre contains a shower room, computer facilities, an enormous stock of donated clothes and coats which those in need can help themselves to, and cooked food is provided by volunteers four days a week.

Wade, 34, said: “The turnover here is quite big. Once someone gets on their feet, they don’t really want to come back, it’s like taking a step back.

“But the space always gets filled because the need is increasing year on year. It is all doom and gloom here at the moment, so we are just trying to keep motivated and keep the service going.”

One advocate of the service is formerly homeless Robert who, through DENS, now has a place to live in Adeyfield.

The 61 year old said: “I still come in to the day centre, because although you’ve got a place, you’ve still got your own problems. If this place was to fold up, where would you go? If it goes, there will be people out on the streets that have got nowhere, they can’t get food.

“They are going to turn to shoplifting, there will be more crime in Hemel, more people hanging on the streets, and it is just going to get worse and worse. If this service doesn’t survive, it is going to be a massive blow and it will reverberate all around the town.”

Paul, 44, who was homeless for years before moving back in with his mum, also gets help with his benefits and filling in forms from the day centre. He said: “You can get all the help you need here. They have done so much for me.”

Fellow service user Jojo described the day centre as a ‘life saver’ for the help it gives her in overcoming personal issues.

DENS needs £20,000 to keep the centre running until the Big Lottery decision which is due in April or May. If you can help, email or call 01442 262274.