Dear Home Visitors,
Welcome to our March – and it seems Spring – newsletter.
Closure of the Winter Night Shelters
Last year we were too small and new for the annual closure of the winter night shelters to impact on us at all: we hadn’t heard of them and vice versa. What a difference a year makes. We have been overwhelmed by demand for new placements and currently have more than 25 potential guests either needing urgent hosts or will in the next week or so. And, of course, it comes just as many hosts are preparing for Easter holidays away or an influx of family.
This means we are desperate for new hosts. At the moment we have 55 “high” interest, unassessed hosts in London alone, with another 34 in the Home Counties. Often this is because the hosts are having building works done/something has happened/they are busy. But if you have any outstanding, do please chase them.
So, it’s been busy, when is it not? And we have been and will be asking you to do your visits as soon as you possibly can – preferably within a week or ten days at the outside. And whether you can do a visit or not, could you tell us quickly – then we can look for someone else not too far away.
We have this great map with all the hosts and Home Visitors on it. We try really hard to assign the nearest person to any given host, as travelling is a bit of a waste of time. If we ask you, you are either the nearest or everyone nearer has at least two visits outstanding.
Hosts often ask for advice about how to register with a GP, how to change job centres and, most of all, how to get their guest a bank account. The answer is always that it’s tricky and varies.
We thought that sharing this story might help.
It’s the tale of how one of our hosts achieved a bank account for his guest. And, in spite of being a financial journalist, it took seven hours and six banks. How those with limited English and no knowledge of the system are supposed to do it, I don’t know.
You can use our resource database to check for local or specialised advice providers. Organisations giving legal advice should have OISC accreditation Accredited Immigration Advisers.
Ed, Katie and the team have been beavering away on our online resource database. It lists useful contacts for refugees by subject and location.
If you know of contacts that are included, especially in your local area, please add them to the list here
We really hope you find it useful and would like to hear your comments.
Making the most of hosts
We are still essentially interested in hosts who will take men, for at least a month, and who live in cities. Could you stress to potential hosts that saying they will only take women, over the weekend, in somewhere quite remote, is a complete waste of everyone’s time. We only really make emergency placements in London (I think we have been asked for one in Leeds and Birmingham and a couple in Bristol and Cardiff – in over a year).
Plus hosting for a week or two means that the guest feels like a parcel – always changing addresses – and the admin team NEVER gets to sit down and have a nice cup of tea.
If your hosts say they haven’t had a placement, their restrictions will almost always be the reason – unless they live somewhere really rural or remote.
Admin – Making it happen
We are trying to make the best use of our Home Visitors and other volunteers all over the country and would love to know if you can do more for Refugees At Home. In some areas such as Manchester, Cardiff and Brighton, our more experienced HVs are helping to make placements. In others they are helping with the hosts’ hubs – such an important part of the host support mechanism.
If you would like to be a part of doing these vital tasks, as well as the visits, we would love to hear from you. We don’t think the core admin team can do much more, or take on many more requests and both of these tasks are better anyhow done in the area where hosting actually happens – and you are the guys who know the hosts.
Do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you fancy helping out.
We have now hosted for 18,475 person nights – more than 4,000 up on the last newsletter.
We had made 436 placements by 25 March, mostly London and the Home Counties but with a growing number in Brighton and Birmingham. And we need hosts in all of the above (also Bristol and Cardiff particularly). So if you can recruit your neighbours, friends or colleagues, please do. A book club has provided our newest recruit!
And finally – charitable status
We got it! Just after the last newsletter and with no pushback or difficult questions. So we are now ever so respectable and can get Gift Aid on donations from taxpayers.
We are celebrating by putting a “donate” button on our website, and a couple of nice gifts have rolled in. This is just for information – we are NOT asking you for money and appreciate your contribution of time and expertise more than anything. But if anyone asks you because they can’t host or visit, the button is there.
So many thanks, as ever for all you do to keep us safe and functioning.
Sara and the core team
Refugees At Home