In 2023 while planning for 2024, we were adamant that (WJF) had to do more for the community.

An afternoon walk through Wycombe town, it’s clear. While Wycombe is a place on the up as creativity and a palpable sense of pride is apparent, ‘homelessness’ cannot be avoided: It IS an issue.

We wanted to partner with WHC and use our brilliant festival to collect funds for this much needed charity.

To that end on the day of the festival (01/06/2024 from 2pm) WHC will be on site to talk about their work and much more.

Firstly, talk about Wycombe Homeless Connection how did it start?

Back in 2006, concerned about people who were sleeping rough in our community, Dr Sheena Dykes of Union Baptist Church, and Rev Paul Willis of All Saints High Wycombe got together and began to look into how local churches might make a difference. Their concern was underlined when Josie, a local woman who is sleeping rough, was found dead in Easton Street car park on Christmas morning.

It was decided to start a winter night shelter. Volunteers and churches ran our first mobile, dormitory-style night shelter which opened in January 2007. People were offered a bed, food, conversation, showers, laundry, and hope. One staff member and 200 volunteers made it happen.

In 2013, we opened our support centre in Wycombe town centre which is open every weekday. We now have a homelessness helpline and drop-in housing advice clinics in Wycombe and Chesham.

And what services are offered to those who are homeless?

Wycombe Homeless Connection is a charity that serves people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in South Buckinghamshire. We help people who fall through the cracks of the increasingly limited state support for people who are homeless. We focus on people who simply have no options and are forced into the most dangerous forms of homelessness. We are also truly an independent charity and can help people from becoming homeless in the first place, preventing the trauma and devastation it can do. We help people make sure their housing rights are honoured.

What is homelessness, particularly outside the stereotyped ideas of someone living on the street begging?

Less than 1% of people who are homeless sleep on the street. The rest are ‘hidden homelessness’ where people ‘sofa surf’ with family and friends, sleep in hostels and try to live in squats. More people, especially women, often ride public transport all night to avoid sleeping on the street then sleep somewhere hidden during the day.

Homelessness also includes people living in temporary and emergency accommodation and people who live in other insecure and unsuitable (overcrowded, dirty, rundown) accommodation – if you don’t know whether your roof will be there the next night or feel that it is safe for you and or your family, you don’t have a ‘home’.

At the beginning you discussed the death of Josie in 2006. What are the dangers faced by those who are homeless?

Homelessness is life-threatening: People who sleep rough are likely to die decades before a person who hasn’t experienced street homelessness. On average a person who doesn’t have a home has a life expectancy of 47, compared to 77 for the rest of the population. The life expectancy for women is even lower, at just 43 years. People who are homeless are almost 20 times more likely to be victims of violence. They are almost ten times as likely to take their own lives. Every year, hundreds of people become homeless in South Buckinghamshire, and it can happen to anyone.

The fact that homelessness can happen to anyone is so relevant. Are there common causes to being homeless?

The causes of homelessness are wide ranging: Loss or lack of a job, breakdown of a relationship or family, increasing housing costs and no matching increase in wages. People leaving prison or the armed forces may have nowhere to go. People escaping abusive and violent relationships may have nowhere to turn. People can get into rent arrears; a private tenancy might be ended with people being unfairly or illegally evicted from their home. People may have been living in the UK for a long time but have not been able to navigate the immigration system so cannot demonstrate their right to live here leaving them outside of the social support system. Homelessness can cause severe pressure, but it can also be caused by it too. Pressures can include poor physical and mental health. 

This is all happening while there is a severe shortage of affordable housing and an increasingly unforgiving welfare system.

Despite the perception of affluence when walking the streets of Buckinghamshire there is a crisis.

People think ‘leafy, green Buckinghamshire’ can’t possibly have homelessness. BUT poverty exists here.

Wycombe saw the single largest rise in private rental costs in the entire country in 2023. This is pushing people into poverty and homelessness as people in poverty have no reserves to fall back on.  The cost-of-living crisis continues to hit hard. In the last quarter of 2023, Buckinghamshire Council is the 4th highest number in the country of ‘homelessness’ applications from people who were asking for help to find a home.

Buckinghamshire is in the top quarter of all local authorities in the country for the number of people sleeping rough. The number of people sleeping rough in the UK rose by 27% this year after a rise of 26% last year.

A tricky question-there are those who feign homelessness. What is the impact on those who are homeless?

Yes, confusion arises. Our community are very generous to us, so we don’t think the confusion causes people not to give but we know some people feel people are faking homelessness, so they don’t give at all, and we are frequently asked – ‘are these people really homeless? They make me not want to give! Should I give to someone begging?’ We would say – follow your heart – but if you give money instead to a charity like us, it will go a very long way!

We are so glad to team up with WHC. How will the money collected for WHC be used?

The best thing is you are letting people know we exist – anyone could need our help, and everyone probably knows someone who needs our help so you are helping make sure they can come to us when they need us.

£52 can pay for a night in local B&B or hotel accommodation- it helps us place people in a room who are high risk of trauma, violence, or harm if they were to spend even one night on the street while we work on their longer-term options.

£250 helps pay for our homelessness prevention team to give the right advice to help prevent an unfair or illegal eviction:  individuals and families will be able to stay in their homes. Not only does this prevent the trauma of homelessness, but it can save the local economy thousands, if not tens of thousands in what it would cost to look after people if they were to become homeless instead.

£450 can keep our homelessness helpline open for up to a week – so that’s making sure it is available to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. 

£1,178 can contribute for one of our support workers to be in their role for a month – that’s specialist support from an experienced team member who can not only provide direct support to the people we serve but train and lead teams of volunteers who in turn provide caring, hope-filled support. 

If people wanted to help, where should they go and what can they do?

We can’t tackle our mission to end homelessness in our community without the support of you all – thank you!

Here are lots of easy ways to donate – see our website:

We have a list of goods we need to keep our emergency food, clothing, toiletries stores stocked:

Sign up to our emails for the latest volunteering opportunities, to hear about our latest needs for goods, our events, news, appeals and much more Follow us on our social media and help spread the word that we are here to help people.