Ukrainian asylum seekers face growing housing crisis

Eleven months into Russia’s war in Ukraine, asylum seekers in the UK are feeling the physical and financial strains of temporary housing exacerbated by a rise in cost-of-living. 

Many Ukrainian asylum seekers are faced with homelessness as their six-month sponsorship period under ‘Homes for Ukraine’ comes to an end, while others struggle to afford the high costs and documentation associated with private accommodation. According to government data released yesterday, 3,165 out of the 100,000 Ukrainian asylum-seekers have been reported as homeless by their local authority since February of last year. 

Ukrainian refugee households presenting as homeless since February 2022. Created with Flourish.

Sheron Pepworth, a host in Bournemouth says inflation has only contributed to an existing problem. “Quite often the hosts I know struggle with living under the same roof. Many didn’t understand what was involved. They thought this would be temporary and within six months they would be able to go back to Ukraine,” said Pepworth, who is currently housing a Ukrainian mother and daughter.  

From August to December last year, there has been a significant jump from 680 to 1,520 persons reporting as homeless, who were initially under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. When inflation rates hit a 41-year high in October, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council offered an increased payment of £600 from the initial £350 to retain hosts on the scheme. 

Since September last year, Maria Sarnavska has helped more than 30 families secure affordable and hassle-free housing. Photo courtesy: Maria Sarnavska

Maria Sarnavska, an independent letting agent says the council does not have enough housing for Ukrainians in emergency situations, often contacting her for leads. An active member of the ‘Dorset for Ukraine’ Facebook group, she coordinates with private landlords and Ukrainians to allow flexibility with rent and skip stringent checks. Hailing from Ukraine, she understands their struggles closely and says, “I have received calls in the middle of the night saying we will be homeless. Responsibility has been shifted to Ukrainians to look for a house but many cannot speak English or understand the system. In our country, you pay money and rent, and not many questions are asked” 

With no credit score and a job, Olha Miroshnichenko had lost hope in finding a private home for her and her children (pictured above). Photo courtesy: Olha Miroshnichenko

The December data shows around 70% of Ukrainians faced with homelessness had dependent children. Single mothers are particularly vulnerable amid the cost crisis with many having no income to supplement government benefits. Olha Miroshnichenko, a single mother of three says she had to move into the closest available house to her children’s school. “Most of my benefits go into rent and bills. For everything else, I go to food banks or ask money from family back home.”  

BCP council is allocating £1.1million to ease asylum seekers moving into private accommodation. 

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