By Tony Pickles, Trustee of LEDAS
What a year 2020 turned out to be. With a pandemic which unfolded at lightning speed, so too have other things taken record time to develop. Who would have thought a vaccine could be brought in for use in just a few months, not just one but several possibilities are being rolled out for use for health care, front line workers and older people.
his year has seen an idea brought to fruition also in just a few months. Since Covid-19, when night shelters were no longer a safe place to be, a small group of five have worked very hard to bring about a more lasting solution for the group of asylum seeking men who have no recourse to public funds. From the first lockdown in March, the Government initiative of “everyone in” was brought about, where all homeless people, including those in Night Shelters were accommodated by the local authority in hotels or hostels. We kept up regular contact with the group of asylum seekers whom we have known for years in some cases.
LEDAS (Leeds Destitute Asylum-seekers Support) then came about from discussions in meetings held in early May, so that a constitution, a business plan and an application to the Charity Commission were submitted and in record time, in June, we were granted Charitable status.
From then on we networked and forged links with many other charities and agencies working for the same client group. It was really affirming to have the support and acknowledgement that what we were attempting to bring about was the right way to proceed. We were offered practical assistance, help in writing policies and procedures, others wanted to have closer links and another charity wanted us to join with them in partnership.
We worked very closely with Leeds City Council with elected members and senior officers from SAFER Leeds and Housing Options. Leeds is a City of Sanctuary and this is not just something to have on the letterhead or on the website, our experience showed that this is something lived; evidenced by the support and encouragement we were given. Eventually, after the initial lease for the hostel was extended from the original 6 months to the end of November; LEDAS together with Leeds City Council and PAFRAS (Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) drew up an agreement for us to work together, in the best interests of the group of the men who had to leave the hostel.
Exactly 8 months to the day, since the Council took the men into their care, on the 25th November we moved them back into our care, in 2 houses in Harehills Leeds, preventing them from becoming street homeless. We feel we are moving towards our residents having the opportunity to live independently, for example, they are enjoying having privacy, a key to the door and being able to cook for themselves, what they want and when they want to eat. They have the time to gather new evidence whilst pursuing their claim for leave to remain. Once successful, we can then look at new referrals to our houses.
This is just the beginning of our work, as these properties, from two private landlords, are short term lets. Currently we are exploring a more permanent solution and looking for suitable accommodation. Fundraising is always a perennial task but with the current climate it is proving more difficult. We are looking for two 4 bedroom properties in Leeds that ideally could be donated or bought for our use and perhaps let to us on a peppercorn rent. We would maintain them internally, provide insurance and pay the utilities. We have received many offers of help both financially and practically; it is humbling knowing that others want to be involved too.
Could you help LEDAS enable asylum –seeking men live in dignity. Would you considered giving a regular amount to LEDAS, perhaps monthly or annually? Or if you can help with a property please contact Tony Pickles on the number below or email LEDAS or the websites has the details for donating.
Tel: 0113 2600844