In the 1990s two organisations were established in Dacorum to try and help, in different ways, people who were homeless.
Dacorum Rent Aid (DRA) was established to provide a deposit guarantee scheme to help people who did not have the funds to place a deposit on a private rented property.
DENS (Dacorum Emergency Night Shelter) began as a temporary night shelter rotating between churches during the winter months.
A permanent Night Shelter was established in 2003 where people were able not only to find shelter but also to receive professional support helping them to deal with the cause of their problem and be able to return to independent living. The Shelter provided 10 emergency bed spaces, adjacent to longer term “move on” accommodation for 5 people. Since that time DENS has been able to work with Dacorum Borough Council and local Housing Associations to provide additional housing stock for people coming through our care.
Once the Night Shelter was established it became clear that there was also a need for a daytime service. Again this started in a church hall but moved into a permanent home in Bury Lodge in 2006.
In 2010 there was a clearly identified need for an expansion of the food storage / supply beyond those who were homeless so DENS established, in partnership with the Trussell Trust, the Dacorum Foodbank. This provides a short term supply of emergency food to people referred from other support agencies in Dacorum.
In 2011 DRA and DENS merged, providing a comprehensive service which could see individuals finding their way from rough sleeping on a continuously supported pathway through the Night Shelter and supported accommodation, to independent living, with the support of the Day Centre available throughout this period.
In 2013 DENS established a programme, Equipped to Change, which aimed to give those who are re-establishing themselves within the community the opportunity to find gainful employment.
Since it was first established DENS has been supported by donations of food, primarily from local churches and schools. We were also supported by donations of clothing and household equipment which were used to provide basic needs for someone moving into a new home.
In 2015, in partnership with Dacorum Borough Council, DENS took over the management of The Elms, a purpose built temporary accommodation unit for single homeless people. The previous Night Shelter in Apsley was converted to additional move-on accommodation.
In 2016 DENS were awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Services
In 2017 Open Space launched, a place of change offering personal development and training, friendly advice and a place to meet.
Photo credit: David Satchel, Hemel Gazette