17 Mar 2023

In my shoes: building a better future for refugees and migrants in the UK

Imagine being forced to leave your home country, to drop all your plans and start again somewhere entirely new …

This is the reality for the thousands of refugees who have arrived in the UK over the last few years. From Somalia to Ukraine, from Sudan to Afghanistan, the people we’ve worked with at ACH have shown us time and again that they have the tenacity and ambition to start a new life in the UK despite cultural unfamiliarity, managing residual trauma and navigating what appears to be largely, but not exclusively, unsympathetic public sector.

This requires more grit and determination than most people will ever know or need.

The team at ACH get it. We have a distinct empathy with the people we house. A significant proportion of our staff are from a range of refugee and migrant communities. We have first-hand insight into the challenges our clients face and therefore feel a natural affinity to the people we house; we have been in their shoes – we get it. Which is why we strive to do more by educating and innovating with new partners to create new solutions to help enable refugees thrive and prosper in our communities.

We have over the past decade partnered with many organisations and landlords to lease properties to vulnerable refugees at risk of homelessness. In 2022, we partnered with local refugee charity Borderlands in Bristol to manage a 4-bedroom supported house for people with refugee status. We are currently housing over 90 individuals across the West Midlands and Bristol.

Hamid  |  ACH tenant

My time here, it has been memorable and worthwhile because I was treated with love and respect. Since then, my overall mental wellbeing has improved a lot and I am grateful for the support ACH has given me.

Currently one of the more innovative models we have developed over the past year is to pilot the re-purposing of buildings with meanwhile-use status as temporary accommodation for people with refugee status.

In a first of its kind in the city, FORE Partnership, Amicala, and Socius, have joined forces with ACH to provide temporary housing for refugees in the city. This has been done by transforming a vacant building, Hampton Lodge, on a site awaiting planning permission, into 15 apartments for refugees in need of interim housing.

Hampton Lodge offers essential “move on” highly affordable one-bedroom properties which are provided fully furnished and fitted with white goods, so residents have a highly affordable comfortable place to call home while they focus on securing full time employment. Ultimately breaking down the barriers of entry to work and housing which many migrants and refugees face.

This initiative now provide homes for 15 refugees from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and eastern Europe, amongst many others, who have been granted refugee status in the UK.

Jamac  |  Hampton Lodge resident

Hampton Lodge is good I can now work full time and I’m able to support my family in the future I will have enough money to save and get a flat.

To ensure a level of stability, the residents will have a minimum lease of two years and be offered at least 3 months’ notice ahead of any future development works commencing.

Mike Dodd  |  project director at Socius

As a partnership with FORE and Amicala, we are deeply committed to making a positive impact in the communities we work in, both socially and environmentally. While we work our way through the development process, we saw an opportunity to utilise an otherwise vacant site as much needed temporary accommodation for newly arrived refugees.

This is partnership is most welcome and much needed. The current system of residential support for refugees is sadly lacking. Holes within the system and endemic short-termism often means refugees and migrants are passed around the system and fall through the many gaps. This makes the idea settling down and integrating within a new society very difficult.

As a result of this new model, we’ve already seen the first of the refugees based here secure full time employment. We are confident more will follow.

Caption: Ali , an Iranian refugee, who we were able to house at the Lodge, came to celebrate with us after securing full time work.

Our goal remains, to redefine, recentre and rebuild the process of integration, providing refugees and migrants across the UK the means to lead self-sufficient, ambitious, and happy lives and contribute to their new home.

In my shoes blog

This blog was written as part of a series for Lara Oyedele’s 2023/23 CIH presidential campaign advocating the importance of racial diversity in the housing sector.

A key campaign objective is to amplify conversations and awareness by sharing a wide variety of lived experiences, #inmyshoes, to create a momentum where racial and ethnic diversity are consistently on the agenda to drive forward positive change.

Written by Paul Hassan

Paul is the partnership manager at ACH.