Preventing Homelessness

That was the theme of our 2019 Showcase, which took place at Union Baptist Church on the 9th October 2019.

Our patron, Lady Howe, opened the evening to introduce James Boultbee, our CEO, who took us through the past twelve months:

"Every year, we say it's been our biggest yet - but this year really has been a big one. The theme of the evening may be Preventing Homelessness, but the theme of the year has been growth. It's not just demand for our services that's grown; we've also been making plans to expand our services throughout southern Buckinghamshire. We've been working even more closely with partner agencies and authorities towards a more collaborative approach to tackling homelessness and our organisation has undergone a number of structural changes.

We've also broken a number of records internally: our quietest month in 2019 was busier than 2018's busiest month in terms of one-to-one support events given.

While celebrating our successes, we mustn't forget that, sadly, we've also seen a growth in demand for the services we provide. An increasing number of people have been coming to us at risk of eviction, and we've seen an alarming rise in the number of people sleeping rough in Wycombe.

At the same time, we are grateful that we've been able to meet this demand: we've increased the frequency of our Legal Drop-In sessions from fortnightly to once a week, we're now running Plug-In on two (rather than just one) evenings a week, and during winter we partnered with Wycombe District Council to provide a record number of beds to rough sleepers in Wycombe.

Thanks go to all of our staff, trustees, partners, volunteers and supporters for enabling this vital work to happen."

James then introduced us to one of the guests we've known for longest. Our longest-running case, she faced eviction for eight years after her two children grew up and moved out of the family's three-bedroom social home. Hit by welfare reforms including changes to Universal Credit and the introduction of the Bedroom Tax, she fell into arrears - but because of a nationwide lack of social housing, she had no alternatives but to stay there until a smaller property became available. The debt just kept building up. She regularly visited our Support Centre and Legal Drop-In sessions, benefitting from the expertise of our visiting housing solicitor from Hillingdon Law Centre and our partner benefits specialist from Wycombe Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme (WRDGS) who helped us delay the eviction for as long as possible. We accompanied her to court on many occasions and in May of this year, she moved into a one-bedroom social home in the centre of Wycombe. She is finally in a safe and stable property she can afford.

Rosemary is our advocacy worker and the member of our staff team who worked most recently on this case. With a legal background and a passion for homelessness prevention, she runs our Legal Drop-In sessions and blew our record for evictions prevented in one year out of the water. She introduced Pamela Fitzpatrick, our keynote speaker visiting from Harrow Law Centre, who talked about the crucial role law centres play in fighting injustice and preventing homelessness.

Our treasurer, David Sparks, gave a brief summary of our finances, highlighting that both our income and expenditure are continuing to increase year on year, which we hope and are confident will continue. He emphasised the advantage that we're not wholly reliant on one source of income and noted that, as we grow to meet demand, we are improving our fundraising efforts.

James outlined some of our plans for the next twelve months, including partnering again with Wycombe District Council to provide yet more beds for local rough sleepers during the forthcoming winter months. He touched also on our plans to collaborate with Aylesbury Homeless Action Group as we transition into unitary authority next April.

Sheena Dykes, Chair of Trustees, gave the vote of thanks, emphasising that our vital work relies on the compassionate, determined and ongoing support of our local community.

Please click here for a digital copy of our Annual Review 2019. If you would like a physical copy, please drop us an email or give the office a ring on 01494 447699.

Special thanks to all those outside of the organisation who came, including...

Phil Thomas, Operations Manager for the Wycombe Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme; Karen Warner, Director of Aylesbury Homeless Action Group; Alasdair Turner, Development Manager for Wycombe Citizens Advice Bureau; Jayne Evanson, Housing Manager for YMCA; Greg Whyte, Relationship Management Team Manager for Red Kite Community Housing; Steve Baker, Member of Parliament for Wycombe; Sue Hynard, Team Leader of Parliamentary Office of Steve Baker MP; Amy Carter, Parliamentary Office of Steve Baker MP; Jacqui Hayward, Parliamentary Office of Steve Baker MP; Nigel Dicker, Head of Housing, Environment and Community for Wycombe District Council; Brian Daly, Housing Service Manager for Wycombe District Council; Nick Adkins, Anti-Social Behaviour Officer for Wycombe District Council; Cllr Maz Hussein, Mayor of High Wycombe; Cllr Khalid Ahmed, Labour candidate for Wycombe; Cllr Dominic Barnes for Greater Marlow; Janine Thomas, Partnership Manager for the Department of Work and Pensions; Inspector Peter Wall for Thames Valley Police; Malcolm Hazell, Senior Pastor for Union Baptist Church; Andrew Wingfield, Associate Pastor for Union Baptist Church; Ellie Stout, Head of Grants for the Rothschild Foundation; Keith Higgins, Broadcaster for Wycombe Sound; and Mike Duckett, Presenter for Marlow FM.