Most of us have heard of Wycombe Homeless Connection; a number of our church members volunteer with the organisation, and some have taken part in the annual Big Sleepout to raise awareness of homelessness and to raise funds. But how much do we know about what WHC does?
Founded in 2007 as a community project of Wycombe churches, WHC now serves around 500 homeless or vulnerably-housed individuals each year, working with anyone who has a housing-related need. This includes 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. WHC runs an advice and support centre which is staffed by four front-line support workers, assisted by trained volunteers. They provide a wide range of services, including housing and benefits advice, referral to specialist agencies, advocacy with official bodies and help to secure accommodation and find employment.
The charity’s 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 clients have gone on to regain stability and purpose.
WHC’s first project was Wycombe Winter Night Shelter, which continues to run from January through March each year. Staff and volunteers provide emergency night shelter for up to twelve guests each night in local church halls, where they offer a home cooked meal, friendship and advice, a safe night’s sleep and a hot breakfast. Shelter stays are designed to provide a period of stability to allow guests to engage with WHC services to address accommodation and other issues.
The most common causes of homelessness are the end of a tenancy, a relationship breakdown, poor health or unemployment, which are things that can happen to anyone, but are more likely to cause homelessness for people already experiencing poverty.
It costs about £240,000 each year to provide WHC’s services, over 90% of which is raised by voluntary sources. The charity is supported by around 400 committed volunteers, so is very efficient and makes every pound go a long way.
Publicity and information about this year’s Big Sleepout will be coming soon, and on November 24th we shall have a speaker from WHC coming to all our morning services to tell us more about how they help local people with housing needs, so make a note in your diary!
If you would like to find out more in the meantime, WHC has an excellent website at www.wyhoc.org.uk
Mission Support Group