One of our newest members, Thousand For 1000, a registered charity based in Brighton, share how their project started, and how they are responding to some of the challenges and opportunities that have come their way since launching just over a year ago.
“One of the first things we did when we formed Brighton Migrant Solidarity back in 2014 was to call a meeting of all of the different non-governmental groups working in the area. The hope was, among other things, to identify gaps in provision. We also want to make sure that we were all working together and we knew each other. It was very apparent that no one was doing anything about housing. This is because housing is a nightmare in Brighton. We built up a very informal network of hosts and were able to provide housing for a couple of people… However, in the summer of 2015, once energy started flowing in to making refugees welcome, we…came up with the idea of finding 1,000 people who would donate £1 a month so that we could rent secure accommodation. ‘Thousand 4 1000’ was born!
It is now a separate organisation from BMS and has been registered as a charity. We have, in just over a year, managed to raise an income of £1100 a month and are renting a two-bedroom flat and provide some hosting support. [But] we need to raise another £500 a month within the next six months.
It has been a very steep learning curve. We have gone from ringing round our mates to see if anyone has a sofa to having referral documents and safeguarding policies. We have also learnt a little bit about the landscape of services. That’s how we’ve come across NACCOM, for example. We also refer people into Positive Action in Housing’s ‘Rooms for Refugees’ scheme and, although we haven’t yet, will also use Refugees at Home.
This month we were offered a flat for free in Hove and a woman and her two children have moved in. It is so wonderful to be able to keep a few people off the streets. The thing I like about the project is that it brings the community together to resist the “hostile climate”… it’s a nice model.
We work very closely with Voices in Exile, another NACCOM member and an amazing charity providing legal advice and destitution support to forced migrants in Brighton. They provide a lot of support to our residents and we, from time to time, take up some of the jobs that they can’t do. There are a good range of services in Brighton. There are other groups; Refugee Radio, the Migrant English Project and the Hummingbird, for example who we work with.
Our biggest challenge is funding. Housing people is expensive and the need is growing. The other big challenge is finding the money for legal fees. Because we are able to provide long-term accommodation, we have several residents with seemingly intractable legal statuses. Routes to status are very difficult and expensive. We just don’t have the money or resources to sort that stuff out. What are the opportunities? I am an optimist. I genuinely think that there is a growing movement of people who want to do things differently. That is a big opportunity for us.
NACCOM has been on our radar ever since we started thinking about housing. The catalyst was needing help preparing policies. We really needed the combined expertise and experience of the network. We’ve already been put in touch with longer-established groups around the country. They were generous in sharing their experience, and this was most helpful to us as we began to frame our policies and look toward the future. It was heartening to find that other organisations had started out as small and as lacking in know-how as us, and had addressed similar problems. They gave us both practical help and comradely encouragement.
Each [member] has its own philosophical basis, and operates in a slightly different environment, developing its response to need, and a funding model that works in its locality. I think that communication lines and mutual support between different areas are essential, and we have already learned a lot from and through NACCOM, and look forward to sharing and working with other groups to address the challenges of migrant destitution.’