One of the phrases we overuse here at Hope is that our job isn’t to get people into our housing, its to get people out. Destitution housing, or financial support from a Hope grant can literally keep people alive while they fight there asylum case, but it isn’t a long term solution.
Everyone that we support has been, we believe, refused asylum in circumstances which are at the very least questionable. That means that we think there is a good chance that they will face persecution if they are forced to return ‘home’. Our focus is on the long term; helping them to challenge that refusal so they can get off the destitution treadmill for good and start to build a proper life in safety here in the UK. The first step towards this is often ‘section 4 support’. When new evidence is presented that casts doubt on the asylum refusal (we call this ‘making further representations’) and this is compelling enough that the Home Office have to take it seriously, then they grant ‘section 4 support’. They provide housing and £35.39 per week. Inadequate as this is, its a huge step forward for people who were previously destitute – there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Since April, Hope has helped 43 people who were previously destitute successfully claim either section 4 from the Home Office or local authority support (usually if they were pregnant and homeless once the baby is born). That’s already as many as in the whole of last year. That’s great news for them, and of course it means that we have been able to house or financially support another 43 homeless and destitute asylum seekers.
We’re proud of what we have achieved, and of the hard work all our partner charities put in to making this happen, but the fundamental question needs to be asked. Why does the asylum system leave anyone deliberately homeless and destitute? How skewed are our priorities if we think that making pregnant women street homeless is a policy success?
We can’t answer those questions, but we can, and do, continue to house and support those who fear persecution yet have been made homeless and destitute.