Planning for the Winter with Wycombe Homeless Connection
22 October 2021
We recently met with James Boultbee, CEO of Wycombe Homeless Connection to talk about their plans for the winter. They support people who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless, and run a drop-in clinic offering legal and benefits advice, which has been funded by a Community grant from the Rothschild Foundation.
Leona: Can you tell me a bit about the context that Wycombe Homeless Connection works in currently?
James: We’ve all seen the news in the last weeks and months as special protections brought in to help people through the coronavirus pandemic end; the lifting of the eviction ban, closure of the furlough scheme and the end of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit. Alongside this we’ve seen increasing food and spiralling energy costs. For some people these will simply be news items, some will find they’re having to stretch to get by but others will find that they simply can’t make ends meet any more.
Leona: It’s going to be a difficult time for many people in our community. Do you think that these challenges might result in more people becoming homeless?
James: In our experience at Wycombe Homeless Connection it’s people who are already struggling with mental health issues, a painful bereavement, or those who have lost a job that will find another blow such as a deep cut to their benefits or an eviction notice coming through the door, too much to bear and these complex, frightening circumstances can lead to homelessness and the start of a very dangerous time.
Leona: Can you share how you and your colleagues can help, and where we can add support too?
James: We provide free advice and support such as emergency accommodation, life-saving health support and homelessness prevention advice and advocacy services ensuring that people’s rights are respected when they find themselves in a housing crisis. At the moment demand for our services is high.
Leona: So, how do you scale up the charity’s response as winter approaches and more people need help?
James: We’re pleased and grateful to have benefited from a three year grant from the Rothschild Foundation’s Community Fund. Knowing we’ve got some of the funds we’ll need to keep operating over the next three years is such a help to a small, independent local charity like us, especially at a time like this!
Leona: Being open and honest, how did you find applying for the grant?
James: It was pretty straightforward – we filled in the online form and shared our accounts, governing document and a budget for the project. We heard the funding was awarded in just a few weeks which was helpful too.
Leona: Thanks for the feedback. Any final thoughts about the winter crisis?
James: Many households facing these challenges have also got other pressures in their lives too. Haven’t we all, to some extent? But we know there is a difference between having a rough time, and being vulnerable to crises and being knocked over and over again until we can’t get up any more. There’s help available across Buckinghamshire so I hope that people will reach out for the support they need.
Wycombe Homeless Connection are asking people to swap their beds for sleeping bags to help fight homelessness in their sleep!
The Big Sleepout 2021: At Home is on Friday 19th November and is a way for the community to act in solidarity with the people who are homeless, and raise money to help ensure they do not have to sleep on the streets this winter.
Please click here to join in and register.