CHARITY deputy co-ordinator Angie Carpenter is well named, as many homeless people in Devizes think of her as an angel.

She goes above and beyond her part-time job for Opendoors to help rough sleepers get another chance in life.

Among those she has helped to get out of a tent in woods and into a modern rented home are ex-soldier Richard and his friend Emma.

Emma said: “She has been amazing to us. If it had not been for her and others from the teams that go to Opendoors we would not be here now. She is a bit of an angel.

“She has supported us all the way. When you are homeless it is really difficult to keep all your important documents, such as birth certificates. Without things like that you can’t prove who you are and it is difficult to get any official support.

“But she helped us to get copies. She has done so many little things and makes us feel like we are worthwhile.”

Angie, 49, said: “I watched Richard with great concern and interest over quite a few years. Both himself and Emma have been regular guests at Devizes Opendoors.

“They needed the basic human essentials more than most things, such as food, drink, clean clothes, bedding and a shower.

“But more than anything to be listened to. He is a lovely complex character who has been through an awful lot.

“Their route from being entrenched rough sleepers to being placed in a hotel then temporary accommodation before finally gaining their own tenancy has not been an easy one whatsoever. They have alternated between frustration, hope and despair regarding their homeless situation.

“But with the unconditional support, advice and guidance of the Rough Sleepers Initiative, ourselves at Opendoors, the housing options team at Wiltshire Council and lately the Royal British Legion and Daniel Thompson at furniture chairty KFR, we got there.

“We all worked well together, many phone calls, appointments, visits, encouragement, filling out numerous forms, emails, consoling conversations and then thankfully congratulatory conversations were had.

“I am so proud of both of them for their strength, resilience and also humour in the darkest days. The sun always shines in the end.”

Richard, 47, and Emma, 43, have supported each other as friends through many dark days after they both suffered traumatic experiences and turned to drugs. They can now hardly believe they have their own home.

Emma, who grew up in Enford near Pewsey and has five grown up children, said: “I keep thinking it is a dream and I am going to wake up.”

Richard said: “It is like all of our Christmasses and birthdays have come at once.” Richard who grew up in the Devizes area and is a former pupil of Lavington School, joined the Duke of Edinburgh Regiment as a teenager.

But after a prolonged assault unconnected with his job he left the army and spent years blocking out the memory of the attack.

The friends first began to turn their lives around 18 months ago after getting help from Opendoors and Centrepoint to stop taking heroin and they are now clean.

At the height of their addiction they spent up to £100 each a day on drugs. The pair partly owe their change of fortune to new help given to homeless people because of the coronavirus emergency.

They were first put into a shared house in Salisbury but were then offered a modern house just yards from where they used to sleep in Belverdere Woods.

John Saunders from Opendoors said: “It would be hard to find a better example of successful working together.

Wiltshire councillor Richard Clewer said: “It is fantastic to see Richard and his partner are now housed into permanent accommodation, where they will receive ongoing support from our new tenancy sustainment officer.” They will also receive support from our partners at Open Doors.

“Our rough sleeper outreach team has supported 31 people into permanent accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 28 of these are still in temporary accommodation.

“The team helps people to access housing, Universal Credit, and substance misuse support while they are temporarily housed.

“Our aim is to deliver on the government’s commitment that no one should return to the streets after the pandemic, and the rough sleeper outreach team will be working hard to find long-term accommodation for those people currently in temporary housing.”