WHC is ten years old! It’s now ten years since Wycombe Homeless Connection was set up to help tackle homelessness locally. In that time, it has become a vital resource in the town, sadly now helping around 450 people a year in housing crisis, up 10% on the previous year. To mark its ten-year anniversary, the homeless charity has planned a series of events to engage the community, raise awareness of its work, and ensure continuing funding to manage a growing problem. A timeline showing some of the main events in the charity’s life can be found here. Sheena Dykes, WHC Chair of Trustees, is “thrilled at how far the charity has come in ten years” and has announced that Countess Howe has agreed to be the charity’s first patron. Having been supportive of the charity’s work for some time, Lady Howe says: "I am delighted to become patron of Wycombe Homeless Connection. I have known about their vital work for a few years, and can attest to the fact that they are exactly what they claim to be: a small, lean, local charity that helps local homeless people rebuild their lives. I very much look forward to working with WHC to raise the profile of the charity, so that it can offer timely help to ever growing numbers of people in housing crisis." Lady Howe visited Wycombe Winter Night Shelter amid continuing icy temperatures recently to share a meal with guests, and to listen to their stories of dealing with the harshness of life on the streets. The night shelter provides a welcome and hot food for up to 12 people during January to March. Wycombe Homeless Connection also runs a Support Centre, open every weekday morning, which provided 2769 individual support sessions in 2016, an increase of 13% on the previous year. Reasons cited are benefits cuts and the decreasing supply of local affordable housing. Lady Howe and Chair Sheena Dykes attend the volunteer briefing at the night shelter Despite an austere economic backdrop, the charity has managed to operate thanks to help from across the town. Sheena Dykes says: “I would like to thank the whole Wycombe Homeless Connection team – our volunteers, supporter churches, dedicated staff members and trustees, and all our other backers and collaborators across the community. Working together has kept the show on the road for the past ten years!” There will be several events in 2017 to mark the charity’s first decade, the first of which is an Art Competition for young people aged 11-18. Entries are invited on the subject of “Journeys”, which chimes with the way homeless people often feel about the crisis they face. Prizes of Samsung tablets are available for the winners of the two age categories, 11-14 and 15-18 years. More details are here. The second major initiative is a “Feel Good Day” in July. Many of those sleeping rough miss out on washing and laundry facilities, and so this day will provide them with a special treat: hairdressers, chiropodists and therapists will volunteer to give them a much-needed pampering day. Thirdly, the WHC annual Big Sleepout will happen on Friday 24th November, in All Saints churchyard. Plans are underway for the biggest and best event ever, and it’s hoped that a record number of local folk (and maybe some VIPs too!) will take on the challenge of sleeping rough for a good cause.