As winter sets in many will face challenges and hardships; with the recent backlog asylum seekers; who are granted leave to remain are given seven days to leave their accommodation and then must navigate obtaining documents, getting support and looking for work. This is forcing many into homelessness especially this winter.
Revd Linda Fox who works with Croydon Refugee Day Centre shares more about the challenges that are being posed.
Just imagine for a moment or two. You have been told to pack up your bags in the middle of the night and leave your home, family and possessions let’s say, for fear of your life. You travel, with your children, for several weeks encountering danger, hunger, thirst and all sorts of other things we can’t possibly imagine from the comparative safety of the UK. When you finally arrive in the UK and claim asylum, you are all placed in one room with no money and strange food.
With a little bit of luck, local churches and other organisations find you and offer some love. From there you start to build a life with the guidance of people who care. Your children start school, make friends. You start to find your way around the local area, learn the language and begin to trust again.
And then you are evicted. (Before I carry on, let me tell you of a young woman and her children who were moved from Croydon in this last week. Moved from the hostel she had lived in for over two years to another London Borough. She was left for five days with no funds to buy food, the beds in the new home are all broken and the fridge is not working. She had no money for cleaning materials. Nobody to advise her on how to get her children registered for schools, how to get food from a food bank. And although there is a ‘complaints’ procedure, the response times are such that the children would have starved while they waited for a reply. And this was a woman who had been mistreated by men in her home country, survived a boat crossing where the boat sank and was only just coming out of that trauma. These are the people whose lives are being uprooted at the moment). Now, let’s continue – you might be rehoused in another part of the country – where the fear and mistrust have to be dealt with again – or you might not. And you might end up homeless.
Right now, as the Home Office starts to deal with the backlog of asylum claims, the chances are that many, many people in our Diocese who have sought asylum for one reason or another will be made homeless (especially if they are young and single). In Croydon, we have no idea how many asylum-seeker/refugee homeless cases this will cause and there appear to be no plans for dealing with the situation. What we do know is that all the agencies we deal with are saying that the numbers they are seeing on the streets are already increasing. This winter, many warm spaces and organisations set up to help the homeless are not able to open.
Croydon Refugee Day Centre is currently looking at what it can do to help, but it could be really useful to know of churches and organisations in the Diocese that offer warm spaces, free meals and Christmas lunches that we can refer people to locally.
The communities in which we live, in which we worship and give thanks for the privilege of a roof over our heads, food in our fridge and families to support us include these people. Galatians 6:2 tells us ‘bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ’. We bear the burden of every person in our communities and, together, I hope and pray that we can make a positive and loving difference to their lives.
How can you help:
The need is immense, but churches may consider a winter night shelter.
You may consider hosting a Robes Night Shelter one night or more a week, serve breakfast and dinner for guest for approximately eight weeks.
Find out more at:
On this page is also a list of churches who currently host a ROBES winter night shelter.
Housing Justice also provides a model for those who would like to set up a winter night shelter. https://housingjustice.org.uk/night-shelters
The Refugee Council has several helpful resources and guides https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/
Refugee Action can provide information and advice on a range of issues and concerns.
If you would like to find further ways you can support or signposting information please contact the JPIC Team.