A profile of Wycombe Homeless Connection

Overview

Wycombe Homeless Connection is a registered charity founded in 2007 as a community project of Wycombe churches, serving around 400 adult homeless or vulnerably-housed individuals each year.

WHC’s staff and volunteers help people get or keep a roof over their heads and achieve a stable lifestyle. In addition, every year the charity runs the Wycombe Winter Night Shelter.

The charity’s overall aim is to help people rebuild their lives by assisting them not only with accommodation but also to develop skills to live independently and take more part in the community.

Over the years, many have gone on to regain stability and purpose.

In 2014, WHC was recognised with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Whom does WHC help?

The bulk of WHC’s efforts relate to single adults who do not qualify for housing help from the council and have nowhere else to turn. WHC works with anyone who has a housing-related need, including those who are sofa surfing, squatting, sleeping in their car, facing eviction, seeking advice or recently housed after a period of homelessness – as well as those who regularly sleep rough.

The most common causes of homelessness are the end of a tenancy, relationship breakdown, poor health or unemployment – things that can happen to anyone.

WHC’s advice, support, resettlement and tenancy support services

About twelve people visit WHC’s advice and support centre each weekday morning, a total of 408 during 2015. During that period, there were over 3000 attendances, 24% up on the previous year.

The centre is staffed by four front-line support workers assisted by volunteers. In over 2500 instances each year, they provide housing and benefits advice, referral to specialist agencies, advocacy with official bodies and help to secure different  types of accommodation. The key objective is to help clients stabilise their housing situation. Where appropriate, WHC provides household starter items, and also offers tenancy support for a period to help resettled clients address their particular issues and avoid repeat homelessness. WHC recognises the value of employment to tackling homelessness, so it helps homeless individuals get work and keep it.

Sometimes clients are provided with emergency clothing, sleeping bags or referrals to the One Can Trust for food. Each instance is logged and accompanied by a conversation exploring the need for this support and to identify longer-term solutions to the underlying issues. This is line with the charity’s focus on rebuilding lives rather than sustaining unhelpful situations.

Twice weekly, WHC runs motivational sessions – the “Inspire” programme – that aim to remind individuals what they want out of life and to empower them to take steps towards achieving it. Using workshops, films and other creative exercises, we re-kindle hope and self-esteem.

WHC’s first project: Wycombe Winter Night Shelter

From January through March each year, WHC volunteers with staff support provide a rolling emergency shelter using seven church halls to accommodate up to twelve guests each evening. WWNS first opened in 2008, and provides up to 900 bed-nights to around 40 individuals each year. It offers a home-cooked meal, friendship and advice, a safe night’s sleep and a hot breakfast. Individuals are referred by a housing officer at the council and risk-assessed by the probation service. Shelter stays are normally limited to 28 days and are designed to provide a period of stability to allow guests to engage with WHC services to address accommodation and other issues.

Operating philosophy and funding

The charity's ethos combines generosity with honesty. This builds clients' self-worth and creates trust, while also enabling WHC staff to challenge individuals to take personal responsibility for rebuilding their lives.

Local churches provide premises and most volunteers for WHC. WHC does not seek to impose the Christian faith on others, but it is what powers the organisation, its welcoming atmosphere and the quality of its work.

WHC works in partnership with the council, rent deposit guarantee scheme, accommodation providers and other agencies. It costs about £190,000 each year to provide WHC’s services, over 90% of which is raised from voluntary sources. The charity is supported by around 400 committed volunteers, so is very efficient and makes every pound go a long way.

Results for 2015

  • WHC provided sustained support to 408 people
  • Of these, around 200 came to WHC homeless, around 100 were at risk of homelessness and the remainder came for advice and support
  • WHC was instrumental in 64 resettlements and prevented 16 evictions
  • Other outcomes were achieved relating to health, purposeful activity, resolving benefits issues and tackling harmful behaviours.

WHC and Wycombe District Council

WHC takes an active part in the council’s multi-agency meetings on homelessness. Since April 2011 WHC has received a WDC Revenue Grant. Each quarter WHC has reported to the Housing Department the details of support given to roughly 170 individuals.

Referring people to WHC

Individuals should make contact any weekday morning at 8 Castle Street from 10 am.

Between January and March, the council’s housing officers can refer individuals to the night shelter.

Further information

More detail can be found on WHC’s website, www.wyhoc.org.uk or from the charity’s volunteer communications lead, Heather Morley, on morleyfamily1039@aol.com or from the charity’s operations manager on 01494 447699.

February 2016