Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Crisis critique - Mick Bateman responds

May 21 2009
Crisis will review aspects of the 2007 Open Christmas in 2007 to ensure rough sleepers have guaranteed access to services Dear Pavement and 'Outsider,' I was sorry to hear of the problems that you encountered at the 2007 Crisis Open Christmas (Letters, The Pavement, 28, 29). It is always valuable to hear the views of our guests, and all complaints and suggestions are welcome and treated seriously. As it helps us improve the service that we offer. The Crisis Open Christmas has always tried to cater for all people who arrive at our doors each Christmas, be they rough sleepers or people living in vulnerable accommodation for whom Christmas would be a miserable time without services such as ours. However, we do try to guarantee that those most in need have access to our centres, and in 2007, with stricter fire limits on our buildings, we published leaflets that encouraged people who did have somewhere to stay to return there each night so that we could accommodate those most in need. However, as we currently operate a 'no questions asked' policy on the door, this is difficult to enforce, and we rely on having the capacity not to have to turn anyone away. Unfortunately, the buildings we had donated in 2007 did not give us unlimited capacity, and so on some occasions, people had to wait to gain access. Some boroughs also put conditions on how we could operate which, again, limited capacity in some centres. As we could not publicise openly our centres in Euston Road and Temple, this did create added pressure on the centre in City Road, and there were some delays in getting referrals organized, particularly as the Temple centre in Maltravers Street was also targeted at those local to the centre in Westminster who had priority. I know that this sounds over-complicated and I know that it is frustrating if you are somebody who is really in need of our service at Christmas and is unable to get in. Following the experience of 2007 and feedback from guests and volunteers, we are reviewing many aspects of the Open Christmas in 2007, and one of the priorities is to see how we can make sure that rough sleepers have guaranteed access to all services as a priority so that your experience in 2007 is not repeated. In relation to our search policy, we do have to carry out limited searches, as we always have done, to stop prohibited things such as alcohol being brought into the centre. We are sorry that this does cause greater inconvenience for those leaving and returning frequently, but it would not be practical to have external luggage facilities. On the subject of the sounding of fire alarms, we did have several alerts at centres this year and inititially buildings were evacuated. However, in all cases the source of the alert was steam and heat from the temporary kitchens that we install in each of our centres. As the sensor in question can be identified on each subsequent occasion, once this had been confirmed, it was not necessary to evacuate. The safety of all of our guests and volunteers is paramount, and we would not have put anyone at risk by ignoring an alarm when the cause could not be identified. Finally, apologies once again for the less than enjoyable time you had at the 2007 COC. We are constantly reviewing the COC to ensure that it still meets the needs of our guests, and would be interested in meeting with you to discuss your views further and to help us provide a better service to you in 2008. Best wishes, Mick Bateman Head of Crisis Open Christmas Dear Mick, Thank you for replying to our previous correspondence on this issue, and we appreciate having comment straight from the "horse's mouth". Editor