What we do and why
Our aim is to develop supported lodgings for refugees in Bristol where Refugee Welcome Homes provide ongoing support for both the person who offers the room (we refer to this person as the landlord) and refugee lodger. RWH wants to match potential refugee lodgers and landlords together, providing both the lodger and the landlord with "light touch" support for the period of between 12-18 months.
We believe that our supported lodging scheme is a stepping stone, teaching refugees how to rent in the private rental market by offering rooms below market rate rent (between £300-£390, not including bills), paid directly to the landlord.
Once a match between landlord and lodger has been made, Refugee Welcome Homes then work alongside both the landlord and the lodger to support the relationship, settling in, the paperwork and any issues which arise during the stay.
We support our refugee lodgers holistically, helping them understand their rights and responsibilities. We provide assistance for their wellbeing with regular meetings throughout the rental period, giving any additional help they may need in their relationship with their landlord. Guidance on education and employment from experienced RWH staff and signposting them to agencies mentoring schemes, additional training and support is also offered.
We believe that running a supported lodging scheme gives refugees the time, space and stability, as a stepping stone, to adapt and adjust to life in the UK. This scheme gives people the capacity to build experience to then move into the private rental market.
During the 12 to 18-month contract period, our landlords receive induction training with special emphasis on inter-cultural awareness and ongoing support from RWH staff. Our RWH landlord peer support group encourages collaboration and enables peer learning.
We collaborate with the whole refugee sector in Bristol to fill one of the missing links for refugees in Bristol which is affordable accommodation.
Why do we need a supported lodging scheme in Bristol?
In Bristol there is a desperate need for good, stable, affordable and longer-term accommodation for refugees. The majority of people who have had their asylum claims accepted and subsequently are given refugee status struggle to find accommodation after they leave their Home Office accommodation.
Covid-19 has exacerbated this situation, closing down or reducing capacity in many of the night shelters, leading to street homelessness among refugees.
Refugees struggle to find private rented accommodation as they face multiple barriers. Barriers to rent include:
New refugees do not have the required landlord’s reference, having not been allowed to rent as an asylum seeker.
Having not been allowed to work as an asylum seeker, new refugees do not have the required employer's reference nor the money saved for the necessary deposit and the payment of rent in advance.
New refugees often have not yet established community or family networks in order to provide themselves with a guarantor for rent. A guarantor needs to earn a sufficient amount of money to be considered and this can prevent people from finding a suitable guarantor.
New refugees can lack knowledge of their housing rights and of confidence in navigating the complexities of the private rental market, housing system and UK benefits.
Landlords are not always aware of refugee tenants’ status and assume they cannot rent to them or the stigma attached to refugees who are sometimes incorrectly considered as ‘illegal immigrants’.
Most landlords are unwilling to accept tenants receiving housing benefit.
Refugees can initially struggle to find employment in sectors outside of low-paid, zero-hours contracts in the gig economy; this financial instability prevents them from being able to rent privately.
Language barriers can make it difficult for refugees to understand potential landlords and to make themselves understood by potential landlords.
These barriers make it often impossible for refugees to rent privately in Bristol apart from in ‘slum’ housing conditions with unscrupulous landlords. By connecting landlords who want to rent out a room in their house and a refugee lodger, Refugee Welcome Homes wants to work with Bristolian landlords to change refugee homelessness and make this a real city of sanctuary for refugees.