Destitution and our Hardship Fund

Homelessness has a devastating and damaging effect on people. If they are unable to find a friend’s floor to sleep on, destitute asylum seekers are forced to sleep rough. When we draw our curtains at night it is very upsetting to think that there are men and women out there who have no shelter. 005

It is estimated that around 200 asylum seekers are living in Newcastle without any statutory support. Some have been destitute for over 4 years.

Current government policy means that when asylum seekers’ applications are refused by the Home Office, they lose their financial state support and are evicted from their accommodation. Many are unable to leave the UK through no fault of their own. Maybe they are stateless and have no country to return to. Maybe they are prevented from going home because their government will not provide them with travel documents. Maybe they are too sick to travel or there is no viable route to return home. Some refused asylum seekers have been in the UK many years and have developed strong ties with the UK. Some may be in long-standing relationships and may have children born in the UK.

Over the years WERS has seen how destitute clients’ physical and mental health deteriorates rapidly once statutory support has been withdrawn. Disrupted sleep patterns, poor diet and having no private space have a devastating effect on men and women who have already suffered so much. 022

WERS has developed a range of services to respond to its clients’ needs. The Hardship Fund and Clothing Store provide practical support, while the Befriending Scheme offers emotional support.

Destitute clients attend the drop-in advice sessions at WERS weekly or fortnightly to receive their support. Clients are given £15 a week and toiletries when available.

WERS is currently supporting 160 destitute men and women. The weekly outgoing of £2,400 presents an enormous fundraising challenge for the charity.

The Hardship Fund relies heavily on the continuing support of churches and individuals throughout the region. Supporters undertake a variety of fund-raising efforts – the Great North Run, sponsored cycle rides, market stalls, Boxing Day dips in the sea – the list goes on! The standing order scheme set up in 2003 has provided the fund with some much-needed stability, but WERS struggles to meet the continuous heavy demand on the fund.

Living without state support and accommodation is not necessarily the end of the road however. For some clients there is a more positive and happy outcome. Sometimes a negative Home Office decision can be successfully judicially reviewed. Sometimes new evidence can be obtained from the home country which can be submitted as fresh representation to the Home Office.

WERS wishes the Hardship Fund was not needed, but sadly it continues to be needed very much by destitute asylum seekers.

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