Thanks to a ground-breaking partnership, on Friday 17 January every single person who otherwise might have been sleeping on the street in Wycombe was provided with a warm, safe bed for the first time this winter – and possibly this millennium.

This good news is the result of ‘outstanding’ partnership working, along with government funding and public fundraising, and the challenge now is to see it continue.

The partner organisations – Wycombe District Council, Wycombe Homeless Connection, Wycombe Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme and Connection Support – have worked together to make sure a range of accommodation is available to those local people who otherwise would be sleeping out this winter.

Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources, including a successful bid by WDC for £60,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), £17,000 successfully applied for by WHC, also from MHCLG, and other grant applications, as well as generous donations from local residents. £60,000 was raised by those who took part in and supported Wycombe Homeless Connection’s Big Sleepout last November and regular donations are made throughout the year.

Cllr Julia Langley, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “It has taken a lot of work and coordinated effort but now we can say that no one needs to sleep rough in winter in Wycombe.

“Some people may be resistant to accepting any help, for a variety of reasons. But the option is available for them to have a roof over their head if they wish, particularly in very cold weather.”

James Boultbee, Chief Executive Officer at Wycombe Homeless Connection, said: “It’s been brilliant knowing that we haven’t had people sleeping outside on these cold nights. We set ourselves the goal that no one would have to sleep rough in Wycombe this winter and it felt great to have got that number down to zero.

“Our task now is to ask what went so well this winter and how can we repeat this success again in future.” 

The MHCLG funding is due to continue at least until the end of February and follows on from similar provision last year. The Housing team at WDC are already drafting their proposal for next winter (which will be submitted as Buckinghamshire Council).

Cllr Langley added: “We do remain dependent on further funding. We have an outstanding partnership achieving great things, and we hope we will receive the funding to provide the same support next winter.”

James added: “We are always doing our best to ensure that no one is left out in the cold. If you are concerned about an adult you have seen sleeping rough you can contact Streetlink on 0300 500 0914. They send your report to our local outreach service and the person will be connected to support.”

Phil Thomas, who founded the Wycombe Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme in 1996, said: “To my knowledge this is the first night since 1996 that every rough sleeper that we are working with has slept in a bed.”

Of course, this scheme is only part of WHC’s work, because people come to WHC for help all through the year, about 600 annually. The problem of homelessness is far bigger than just rough sleeping. Government numbers show about 50 times more people in council temporary accommodation than counted sleeping rough. And individuals sofa-surfing are not counted at all. Getting people off the street is good news, but it’s not the end of the story by any means. The work goes on.