“I’m not a human anymore”, “I’m like a shadow”… I have heard phrases like these countless times, but they never fail to cut deep. People who have come here in search of safety, only to find that their struggles will continue as they must try to survive in the UK. You see the journey they encounter, full of hope and relief at their arrival in the UK that they are finally safe. Then the gradual erosion of that hope as the years drag on and asylum claims, appeals and fresh claims come and go, to the final end point of seeing themselves as simply no longer human.
Working out how many people are affected seems an impossible task. When someone claims asylum and is finally refused and no longer entitled to any accommodation and support, what normally happens is they join the thousands of people hiding in plain sight but utterly destitute. They are the person sitting next to you on the night bus, riding all night because it is warm and feels safer than the streets; they are the person waiting for a train they will never board in the station late at night. More worryingly are the stories we hear from people who are left no option but to remain in extremely exploitative situations to guarantee a roof over their head.
As there has been a steady increase in the numbers of destitute asylum seekers over the years, there has also been a steady increase in the organised kindness of strangers. The NACCOM (No Accommodation) Network’s membership has grown from 35 full members in 2015 to 50 in 2018; all organisations across the UK providing accommodation to destitute asylum seekers, refugees and migrants with no recourse to public funds. Last year 38 organisations provided 272,931 nights of accommodation to almost 2,000 destitute asylum seekers, refugees and migrants with no recourse to public funds. This accommodation comes in many forms, the majority is provided by people offering a spare bedroom, others are through houses that have been gifted to organisations or which they have been able to purchase or rent very cheaply, and others through temporary night shelters.
Accommodation can make a huge difference to guests, providing much needed safety, support, space and time. As a resident of the Boaz Trust, one of the network’s founding members in Manchester, explained; ‘Before Boaz we had nowhere to go. My wife was pregnant, and she had depression, stress and was frightened. If we did not come to Boaz, we would have been on the street. We stayed with two different hosts, and had a very nice time. For my wife especially, they became like friends, like sisters - they opened their hearts as well as their house to us. It helped change her mood from depression to happy. Boaz… helped when things were very difficult.'
At NACCOM we are proud to represent communities across the UK that are standing up to injustice and making room for people in need. If you’re not already involved in this life-saving work, visit our Project Directory to find members near you, or find other ways to support our work to end destitution at www.naccom.org.uk