Earlier this week we caught up with the team at WARM Hut in Salford, a refugee community organisation that became a NACCOM member in August 2016. The team includes Pipeeh Miyalu (Project Manager), Elizabeth Tamgata (Wellbeing Manager) and Albert Mulando (Liason Officer).
When did WARM Hut start, and what was the vision behind it?
WARM (Welcome Asylum Refugee Migrant) Hut started in 2009 with the aim of supporting asylum seekers and refugees from French-speaking African countries.
People from those communities were feeling unsupported so we started running an advice service to signpost people on.
But as the service grew, quite a few other needs began coming up, like learning English, using computers, and socialising. So we began to develop projects according to needs. To do this we ask for feedback at our activities and run focus groups to identify what is working and where there are other needs.
The project has also grown to support people from a wider range of countries, including Zimbabwe and Zambia. In the last year we helped 120 people, with drop in sessions, emotional and wellbeing support, a community forum and English, IT and maths classes.
How did your accommodation service start, and what does it look like now?
Most of our members have become destitute at some point and it was really difficult to see people becoming homeless.
We asked members who had spare rooms if they could accommodate someone which was also good for companionship, and that was how the hosting scheme started. We also have two flats which belong to community members and can be used in cases of emergency. In the last year we have accommodated 13 people but we had to turn away nine because of limited capacity.
What are some of the challenges you are facing at the moment?
There are three main challenges with accommodation amongst our community members.
Firstly, people who have spare rooms have had to downsize because of the bedroom tax. So this makes hosting difficult.
The second is that when people get their immigration status they are told there is no council housing in Salford, so they have to find somewhere private to rent. But when they approach private landlords they need a guarantor. We do have some members who can be guarantors (as the list is quite specific) but then if residents experience benefit sanctions then the guarantor is contacted by the landlord and threatened with court action. This can make the guarantors want to back down.
There is a third challenge which relates to families in our community. Families who have immigration status are housed by the council in a local hostel. They get one room for everyone, regardless of how many children they have, and it can be very difficult. That said, the hostel is also always fully booked. So we do sometimes get requests for accommodation from families but we can’t accommodate people easily.