IN tough financial times, it’s even tougher for those who are struggling to get by.
But if you believe the maxim that charity begins at home, you’ll want to know more about the Dacorum Community Trust.
It’s an organisation dedicated to helping local people get back on their feet, and doing it in very practical ways.
But ironically the organisation, like many others in the voluntary sector, is also finding it hard to cope with tight budgets and resources under strain.
There are always more appealing causes that will survive better than others when there’s not as much money to go round
Trust chairman Margaret Kingston recognises the harsh realities of life.
She knows that the trust doesn’t have the same kind of appeal as animal charities or hospices.
“Helping poor people isn’t sexy or cuddly,” she says
And there’s also the lack of awareness about just how many people are living on the edge, even in a supposedly prosperous district like Dacorum.
The numbers of people without jobs, without a roof over their head, without enough money to feed their families, may be lower than in other parts of the country.
But that doesn’t make it any easier for those who find themselves in that unhappy position.
Margaret said: “There are a thousand different reasons why people’s lives go wrong and we see quite a wide range of people here.”
“The perception is that it’s quite a wealthy area across Dacorum, but we’ve had people from every town and village in the borough coming to us for help.”
And that list even includes unlikely locations like Kings Langley and Aldbury.
The trust, founded in 1976, is made up of a small team operating from The Hub in Paradise, on the edge of Hemel Hempstead town centre.
“The main shift in what we do happened after the Buncefield explosion,” Margaret said.
“The trust used to be a lot more focused on providing grants for the elderly and disabled.
“Now we also have a greater focus on people of a working age, for example, those aged 18 to 65.
“We’re not trying to build any form of dependency culture here though, our aim is to make them economically independent.”
When someone in need walks through the charity’s doors, they are first given a simple form to fill out.
This helps staff at the trust to identify and discuss a person’s situation as part of an initial ‘triage’ stage.
“From this we can look at a person’s situation and see how best we can help them.
“This can be in the form of advice as much as it can be in any financial sense.
“We’ve really had to make our money stretch further, so any funds we give out are designed to get people back on their feet and dependent, or provide an immediate sense of security if a person’s situation has suddenly deteriorated.
“This may include someone who has been evicted, lost their job suddenly, or a mother struggling to look after her children.
“In some cases we can provide food from the Foodbank located here at The Hub, or we can even purchase goods such as washing machine which can make a real difference.
“The ability for a child to be able to go to school in clean clothes can help so much in terms of how they feel and how they are received by others.”
The trust works with a lot of other charities, all of them of them in the borough
“We have an endless stream of people to help, and we receive no additional funding from the government, despite what many people think.”
The support the trust provides can give people the all important breathing space they need to get back on their feet and take care of themselves.