Autumn sees the return to university or college for many young people in Somerset, often leaving parents or carers with a sense of longed for peace and quiet. For others, a spare room gathering clutter and dust may also be ripe for a sort out and some useful employ.
Whether things may be starting to feel a bit too quiet, a little too empty, or simply ready for a refresh, thoughts may move to how that spare room (or two) could be re-purposed and put to ‘good use’.
Hosting could be the answer, as the need continues for more host families to help support Ukrainian nationals forced to flee their homes and seek sanctuary in a new and unfamiliar setting.
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.
Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Lead Member for Communities, Housing and Culture at Somerset Council, comments:
We have seen the incredible generosity and commitment of many host families to date and are keen to invite more Somerset residents who may – particularly at this time of year – have a spare room and comfortable living space, and may be considering hosting, to register their interest.
The idea of becoming a host or sponsor to a displaced family or individual may seem daunting at first, however, there is a huge amount of support available; from 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, as well as what to do if the relationship breaks down,” continues Cllr Smith-Roberts.
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.
Now 18 months into the Homes for Ukraine programme, a number of Ukrainian guests are seeking new hosts for ‘re-matching’ as original hosts approach the end of their commitment. As such, 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 be more established.
Somerset based Julie and husband, John became hosts to two Ukrainian families – two mums and their three young children – in July 2022. Fleeing a war zone and forced to leave their homes, hear them tell their story of being offered safety and support with their hosts at Ukrainian family host story
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.
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 email@example.com.