A Ukrainian woman and her eight-year-old son were at risk of sleeping rough after being forced out of the house they were staying in under the Homes for Ukraine programme.
Hanna Rozova and her son, Oleksandr, fled war in Ukraine in May and were originally staying with a family living in Richmond, west London. But in September, after several disagreements with their hosts, the relationship broke down and they found themselves with no place to live.
Several calls and emails to their local council went unanswered, with the local authority only agreeing to intervene when Oleksandr’s school contacted social services.
Now living temporarily in a studio apartment in Feltham, west London, Ms Rozova says she struggles to find food and petrol.
“I eat once a day to have fuel and be able to take the child to school. Fuel is expensive, so I have to tighten my belt,” she said. I.
She said she fears that many Ukrainians “will end up on the streets” without further support for those who lose the accommodation they had under the Homes for Ukraine program.
More than 130,000 visas have now been issued to Ukrainians under the Homes for Ukraine program, which allows Ukrainians to be matched with sponsor families who agree to host them in their homes for at least six months.
But in Ms Rozova’s case, after a number of “disagreements” with her host family, she says she was repeatedly asked when she and her son were leaving. As a result, they left their host’s house to stay with a friend living outside London during the summer school holidays.
In the meantime, Ms Rozova has contacted Richmond Council to request alternative accommodation. They were placed in accommodation in Hounslow, which Ms Rozova described as “dirty” and in “poor condition”, where her son was afraid to stay.
Instead, they found another Homes for Ukraine sponsor who agreed to temporarily house them but could only offer them a room until their daughter returned to the UK in September.
As that deadline approached, Ms Rozova said she contacted the Labor Rights Centera charity that supports migrants in the UK, who again contacted the council asking for emergency accommodation.
According to Ksenija Peniaz, service delivery assistant at the Work Rights Centre, the council took days to respond despite several calls and emails. When he responded, he said he did not have enough temporary accommodation to house the family, meaning the couple were homeless.
The council eventually stepped in when Oleksandr’s school reported the issue to social services. He has agreed to put them up in a studio in Feltham, where the couple will stay until another sponsor is found.
In the meantime, Ms Rozova can access universal credit and child benefits, but cannot find a job that matches her childcare commitments.
“The government does a lot, but I’m most grateful to individuals and organizations that help Ukrainians,” she said.
“I have questions for the government about what will happen once the sponsorship ends. There are also significant housing issues – the government is of no help and counseling is inaccessible. I fear that many Ukrainian refugees end up on the streets.
Richmond council said I it is committed to helping Ukrainian families find suitable long-term accommodation for as long as they are in the UK, whether they choose to stay in the borough or move elsewhere.
A spokesperson said a quirky offer of temporary accommodation after Ms Rozova and her son moved out of their host’s home was turned down, with the family opting instead to stay with a friend in a nearby borough. The spokesperson added that a second offer of temporary accommodation was made and accepted on September 7 for their current apartment and that the council continues to work to find the longer-term family accommodation.
“The council has also supported the family by connecting them with local support to help them with their job searches and to ensure they receive the benefits to which they are entitled.”
But Ms. Rozova’s story is not isolated. According to the Work Rights Centre, thousands of Ukrainians now face uncertain housing situations as relationships break down between sponsors and hosts and minimum sponsorship agreement periods come to an end.
A report by the charity, which surveyed 191 Ukrainian families living in the UK, found that one in ten people had been threatened with eviction.
More than two-thirds of respondents had little or very little confidence in their ability to find private rental accommodation in the UK due to high rents, high deposits and other financial barriers such as the need for guarantors .
Almost one in five respondents said they lived in overcrowded housing.
The charity is calling on the government to do more to prevent evictions from sponsoring homes, such as ensuring all hosts receive financial support.
Ministers are also urged to do more to help Ukrainians access the private rental sector, for example by using existing money to support Ukrainians on finance deposits.
A government spokesperson said: ‘We understand the financial pressures hosts and guests are currently feeling, which is why we are working closely with councils to ensure families are not left homeless. above their heads.
“A recent survey of almost 18,000 respondents shows that the majority of sponsors want to continue hosting for more than six months and when clients move on they have a number of options including entering a rental private or find a new sponsor.”
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