The Refugee Council recently won third prize, and £10000, in the London Homelessness Awards sponsored by the London Housing Foundation, Shelter, Crisis and the London Housing Directors. We asked them to tell us the kind of thing the money will help them with and they told us about Abdo.
Abdo* is a 37 year old newly granted refugee from Sudan.
Abdo was forced to flee his home country when his life was in danger because of his political beliefs. The Sudanese authorities are intolerant of opposition in and outside of Sudan. The government harasses, detains and mistreats actual or perceived political opponents including members of armed opposition groups and political parties, civil society activists, students, and journalists. According to official Government statistics, between July and September 2016, 80% of asylum claims made in the UK by Sudanese asylum seekers were successful – this is very high. Abdo faced countless abuses by the authorities in his country and had no choice but to leave. He decided to make the dangerous journey taking him across Africa and Europe.
Abdo arrived in the United Kingdom in February 2016 and claimed asylum. He was initially dispersed to Cardiff for a few months and then moved back to London where he stayed in National Asylum Support Service hostel accommodation. Abdo was granted refugee status in August 2016; however, upon receiving notification of this news he was given an eviction notice informing him that his National Asylum Support (around £36.95 a week) and accommodation would be terminated within 28 days.
The eviction notice, which is normal practice when someone is granted refugee status, meant that Abdo had to urgently find alternative accommodation. Unfortunately, with no savings or any other support to access private accommodation, Abdo found himself homeless.
Abdo went to seek help through his local council in Barking and Dagenham but he was not deemed as being priority so they did not offer him any help. Abdo was able to stay with friends for a few days, however they were unable to offer longer term support. With no alternative, Abdo spent most his nights sleeping rough on the streets of London.
Refugee Council support
In August 2016, Abdo was referred to the Refugee Council’s Private Rented Scheme by Crisis, and joined the waiting list. Within 10 days Abdo was given an appointment with our Housing Officer, Adonis. Abdo was given an Initial Assessment where they discussed his options and made a working plan for the following weeks. At Adonis’ suggestion, Abdo attended a Pre-tenancy Training Group Session where he learnt about his rights and entitlements and how to manage a tenancy effectively. Adonis discussed different options available to Abdo whilst waiting for longer term accommodation, such as temporary night shelters. He was also supported to understand how to find accommodation and approach private landlords.
In November, Abdo’s homeless journey came to an end. Adonis identified a studio flat leased by a supportive landlord who could accept direct payment of housing benefits. Abdo viewed the property and accepted the tenancy. Abdo says he is extremely happy to finally have a roof over his head and is now looking to find employment to help him move on with his life.
The Refugee Council’s support does not end here; Adonis will continue to work with Abdo and the landlord to ensure that the tenancy runs smoothly and help to overcome any issues that they might encounter. Our aim is not just to find people shelter but to help them find homes; homes where they can feel safe and secure; homes where they can begin to rebuild their lives.
(*Name has been changed)