Ukrainian refugees in UK face homelessness crisis as councils struggle to find hosts – The Guardian

Ukrainian refugees in UK face homelessness crisis as councils struggle to find hosts – The Guardian

Many Ukrainians are ending six-month stays and finding there is nowhere for them to go, local authorities say
Ministers need to act urgently to prevent a looming homelessness crisis among Ukrainian refugees, council leaders have warned.
More than 100,000 people have become guests of British families under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, but many are coming to the end of their six-month stays and finding there is nowhere for them to go.
The government plan was for Ukrainians to either rent their own homes or “rematch” with other hosts. But local authorities responsible for overseeing the scheme say they are struggling to find people to take in the refugees.
The District Councils Network, which represents 183 mostly rural local authorities, said that it had received many reports of hosts deciding not to rematch. A Leicestershire local authority found that only 10% of people who had expressed an interest in hosting in the spring were now willing to help with rematching. A similar survey of 2,700 potential hosts by a Gloucestershire council had a positive response from only 15%.
Nataliia Kozhushko, a 38-year-old engineer from the Kharkiv region, and her host Amy, have been looking for a new host for six weeks without success. Kozhushko has been living with the family in Cropredy in Oxfordshire since April, but the family has had a change in circumstances, and Kozhushko needs to move for work. She has a job at Aldi in Banbury, four miles away, and is learning English at college, yet the bus to Banbury runs only twice a week, so the villagers have banded together to provide transport.
“We’ve advertised on Facebook for her with a lovely picture of her but not had a single person come forward,” Amy said. “It’s such a wonderful experience our family has had, and if anyone has a spare room that can offer a Ukrainian refugee, whether it’s Nataliia or someone else, then I can tell them that the positives far outweigh any negatives.”
“Amy has done so much for me,” Kozhushko said. “In the first six weeks we tried to get as much information as possible. She took me to 100 places, to visit a dentist and a doctor, my universal credit, bank account. And people in the village helped a lot. They sent clothes for me. And a lot of them we didn’t even know.” She hopes to become a translator and is worried about her brother and parents remaining in Ukraine.
By Christmas, about 14,000 Ukrainians are expected to have come to the end of their stay and if they cannot find another host or private accommodation they will be homeless. The latest figures show that 1,915 Ukrainians have presented to councils as homeless.
At the moment, 4,000 Ukrainians are looking for sponsors, according to the Ukrainian Sponsorship Pathway, a charity set up to support the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Barry Wood, the Conservative leader of Cherwell district council which has been supporting Kozhushko, said that rematching was proving difficult and was often not the right solution.
“Where there is a breakdown of the arrangement heading our way, we’re looking for substitute hosts,” he said. “That’s not ideal, especially when there are kids in primary schools because they shouldn’t be uprooted.”
He said that many of Cherwell’s hosts were clustered in specific villages, perhaps because there were members of the same church congregation or other network. Those clusters mean the refugees can support each other, but many now want to move to towns and cities for jobs and better transport.
About half of Ukrainians are housed by district councils. Figures compiled by the DCN show that there are 226 residents per Ukrainian in South Cambridgeshire – the highest ratio of any local authority in England – with South Oxfordshire, Chichester, Waverley and Wealden making up the top five.
Bridget Smith, the Liberal Democrat leader of South Cambridgeshire district council and vice-chair of the DCN, said the government needed to take action now to prevent a crisis. “Now that we have the cost of living crisis, I think that makes the potential for a crisis much more real. No matter how altruistic and kind and generous our hosts are – and many are not wealthy people – this will be putting serious pressures on them,” she said.
Councils already have more than a million households in the UK waiting for homes so anyone becoming homeless now will be added to those lists, and councils then need to find money to maintain them in bed and breakfast accommodation.
“I have about 1,600 people on my housing list at the moment and some of the London boroughs have tens of thousands,” Smith said. “I get the sense that the government thinks the job has been done. They urgently need to review the schemes.
“The cost of living crisis is going to start impacting really badly on all councils. Just the cost of filling our bin lorries is putting massive pressure on us. We’re a council in a reasonably good place, but we’re still really, really worried about how we’re going to manage in the next two years.”
A government spokesperson said: “We have protected more than 136,600 Ukrainians since Putin’s invasion and the vast majority of these arrivals are settling in well.
“ONS survey results show the majority of sponsors want to stay on beyond the initial six months. All arrivals are able to work, claim benefits and we’re giving councils £10,500 per person to cover any additional costs, including emergency accommodation if needed.”


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