More host families are needed in Somerset to help support Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to flee their country.
Since the Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched in March 2022, Somerset has welcomed over 1,500 Ukrainians to date, with host families playing a pivotal role in creating a safe environment for guests to re-settle and rebuild their lives in some way, supporting and helping them navigate a new life in the UK.
“It is thanks to the incredible generosity and commitment of our host families that we have been able to welcome, re-settle and support so many of our Ukrainian guests,” commented Chris Hall, Executive Director, Community Services at Somerset Council.
“Since the scheme was launched, we have witnessed some truly awe-inspiring stories of compassion and resilience within our communities; the strength, determination and the simple acts of kindness that have been shared between host and guest has been invaluable to our communities and families, in so many ways.”
Somerset based Julie and husband, John became hosts to two Ukrainian families – two mums and their three young children – last July. Fleeing a war zone and forced to leave their homes, their story of being offered safety and support with their hosts can be found on youtube – Somerset households invited to offer Homes for Ukraine.
Of their decision to become hosts, Julie commented:
“We have gained so much from the experience; the friendship, the connection with two Ukrainian families we would never had otherwise made. We’ll be friends for life.
“For us it was an easy decision to make; we knew we had to respond, do something. My advice – if you are able – would be to just do it; it’s not without its challenges but there is a huge amount of support available to you as a host.”
More than half of the 1,500 Ukrainian guests in the county have moved out of sponsors’ homes, some into private accommodation, and others out of the county for work or back to the Ukraine. Around 700 Ukrainians are still living with hosts in the area.
Chris continues: “We are now 500 days into this programme, and many of the guests now need to find a new host and be ‘rematched’, because their original hosts are approaching the end of their commitment.
“Guests who are already living the in the UK and awaiting new hosts, will generally need less support; many will have found work, settled their children into local schools and feel more established.”
Becoming a host (or sponsor) can be hugely rewarding, with the key consideration being the ability to provide a bedroom and a comfortable place to live for a minimum of 6 months.
The next step is to register your interest and Somerset Council can provide more information about how hosts and guests are matched, training and support for both parties, checks and visits that form part of the arrangements, thank you payments to hosts and what to do if the relationship breaks down.
To find out more about the Homes for Ukraine scheme and to register your interest in becoming a host, visit Homes for Ukraine.
There are a number of ways to support refugees and asylum seekers in Somerset, in addition to hosting. If you are able to offer your time, skills or resources to supporting guests, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to find out more about ways you can help support displaced people in Somerset, visit Support refugee settlement in Somerset and how you can help.
To find out how you could change a child’s story as a foster carer for an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child, visit www.fosteringinsomerset.org.uk or call 0800 587 9900 to find out more.