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How you can help homeless refugees sleeping on the streets this winter

Alarming numbers of refugees are being made homeless. But there's a way you can help

refugee hosting

Refugees like Adam (not his real name) would be on the streets without the support of hosting organisations. Image: Andy Parsons

A growing number of refugees are being evicted from Home Office accommodation at short notice, putting them at risk of homelessness. Refugee hosting organisations are experiencing record referrals and looking for hosts, as the number evicted into homelessness has tripled since changes to government policy.

It’s a dire situation, but there are ways you can help.

Refugees at Home, a charity connecting refugees with hosts, said it had seen 204 referrals in October – triple the number the previous year.

“Many people are coming to us having slept on park benches, in mosques and churches or on friends’ floors. We know anecdotally of young, vulnerable refugees who are being preyed on and recruited into drugs gangs because there is no other support,” said executive director Carly Whyborn.

“Many of those coming to us are people who have been given very little time to leave their Home Office accommodation – just a week, in some cases.  In its haste to clear the backlog of asylum applications and get people out of hotels the government is just pushing the problem further down the line. Charities like us are stretched beyond our limits trying to help refugees who are being turfed out at short notice and are facing winter on the streets.”

The Big Issue this week told the story of Adam, a newly-recognised Yemeni refugee who would be sleeping on the streets without the help of several host families from Refugees at Home.

After two years in a hotel, suffering at the hands of the country’s asylum system, living with hosts gave him a different view of the UK.

“These memories will stick with me for the rest of my life. I found welcoming people,” he said of his hosts.

“I was afraid, I didn’t know where to go, with all these negative ideas and thoughts. Tired, carrying my bags on the streets. And they opened the doors for me.”

Hope at Home, a charity that matches survivors of modern slavery with hosts, is receiving more referrals than it can deal with

A usual month would see six refugees referred to the organisation, says operations director Helen Hodgson, but since August the total has been 45 – or 16 people a month. There’s often no option but to turn vulnerable people away.

“We’ve got a small team, we’re constantly looking for new hosts but we can’t keep up with the demand,” says Hodgson.

“It’s really hard for the team to have to turn people away.”

As The Big Issue has been reporting, the crisis is severe. Cities across the country are saying they cannot provide the help needed, with London reporting a doubling in rough sleeping among those who have recently left Home Office accommodation. Volunteer services, already stretched, are resorting to handing out sleeping bags.

Coupled with an effective reduction in the time newly-recognised refugees are given to find somewhere to live before they are evicted, it’s a recipe for mass homelessness.

Alongside informing our readers about the extent of the situation, we also want to show you how to make a difference.

Change a Big Issue vendor’s life this Christmas by purchasing a Winter Support Kit. You’ll receive four copies of the magazine and create a brighter future for our vendors through Christmas and beyond.

If you’ve got a spare room and live in a town or city with good public transport, you could help.

“That’s really it. We do the rest, we’ll support them, we’ll train them, we’ll match them,” says Hodgson. With more hosts, Hope at Home would have been able to 

Hope at Home is looking for hosts in and around London, as well as Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, and any other major cities.

Register your interest with Hope at Home here: www.hopeathome.org.uk/register-your-interest-hosting 

Register your interest in hosting with Refugees at Home here: https://refugeesathome.org/get-involved/id-like-to-host/

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