Housing remains a particular challenge for vulnerable migrants and refugees. Most migrants and refugees struggle to access public funds, which includes homelessness support. As such, they will need to find private accomodation themselves. Of course, for most migrants without any status, this is rarely an option given that they are also not allowed to work.
Once granted a full refugee status, people do have access to public funds are often at high risk of becoming homeless. Many of them were accommodated through asylum support whilst their claim was pending, often several years. After they were granted refugee status however, they will only be given 28 days to move out of the accomodation. This means that within that 28 days, they will have to sort all of their benefits and housing. Application for universal credit itself takes 5 weeks to process. Similarly, homelessness assistance is only provided for those with “priority needs”, such as those with young children or particularly vulnerable due to mental / physical health issues.
Based on our experience, wrong decisions are often made by local authorities’ housing department. We are currently working with a refugee with very severe Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due experience of torture. Despite strong evidence from his psychiatrist from the community mental health team, housing department still refused to assist him. We had to be refer him to a housing solicitor to challenge the decision.
Similarly, those who do not have priority needs, are still faced with homelessness as 28 days is not long enough to find a place which accepts rent payments through benefits. Universal Credit only provides rent in line with a Local Housing Allowance rate that is set by the government. The rate however, is always significantly lower than the actual average rent of properties available to rent. In addition, there is very little assistance to help pay deposit and first month rent, which is typically required from tenants.
While it is right that people who are more vulnerable should be getting priority assistance, homelessness can still have a very detrimental and long lasting impact for all individuals – particularly for refugees who came here for a safe place.
This month alone, we have been working with 4 different refugees who risk homelessness due to the issues above.
The only solution at the moment is to rely on private hosting – on people who might have a spare room and/or living room where our members can stay temporarily on a short term. Housing issues are very difficult to solve as there is not a lot of assistance available, but the effect can be extremely severe. Numerous civil society initiatives developed over the years to help people who become homeless due to their immigration status and you can find out more at The No Accommodation Network (NACCOM)
If you have a spare bedroom or a property and would like to become a host please contact our Community Programme Director, Francesca Valerio firstname.lastname@example.org and she can tell you a bit more about what is involved in hosting and connect you with one of the hosting support organisations in your area.