An Information Evening at Stroud Brewery on 6th October welcomes those wishing to join Stroud’s heart-warming humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine and will offer advice on hosting or renting to Ukrainian refugees in Stroud District.
Since the war began in Ukraine, over 220 refugees fleeing the fighting have been housed by dozens of hosts under the Homes for Ukraine scheme in and around Stroud. They have been welcomed and supported by a group of local volunteers; Stroud Ukrainian Refugee Community Support (SURCS) helps with all essentials – transport, medical needs, language lessons, access to technology, employment and school places – not to mention the mammoth task of matching hosts with guests. Retired engineer and SURCS Co-ordinator David Nathan comments: ‘To be part of the community in Stroud spontaneously and generously coming together to help those in need, has been one of the most uplifting experiences of my life’.
Sadly, Russia’s offensive in Ukraine shows no sign of ceasing, and as the 6 month initial hosting period comes to an end for many, alternative accommodation in the form of follow-on hosts or affordable private rental properties, is needed by those for whom home is still too dangerous a place to return to. An information evening held by SURCS at Stroud Brewery from 7- 9 pm on 6th October, will invite locals to join Stroud’s humanitarian response. Jade Bashford, co-owner of Stroud Brewery and SURCS co-ordinator says: ‘We have single Ukrainian guests as well as families, some need emergency short term accommodation, others 6 months or longer. People are offering rooms through the Homes for Ukraine scheme which pays £350/mo or the Rent-a-Room scheme which offers tax incentives. Some accept Housing Benefit for a rented house or flat. It’s inspiring to be around so much kindness and to be able to make a real difference in the face of a situation that looks so bleak’.
In March 2022, as rockets razed Ukrainian cities to the ground, the people of Stroud District mobilised to make their homes ready for mothers, children, grandparents and pets fleeing the sirens and shelling. Under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, strangers from the edge of Eastern Europe became overnight whatsapp friends with families all over the UK. In Stroud District, from Frampton-On Severn to Wotton-Under-Edge, prospective hosts grappled with lengthy visa applications and other logistics to enable safe passage for the shell-shocked victims of Vladimir Putin’s invasion. Volunteers unable to host gave their time and energy to fundraising, and facilitating, sourcing everything from bicycles to buckwheat. Sarah Sutch, one of the first to join SURCS says: ‘Stroud district has exceptionally special people living in it and nothing is too much trouble. We have seen this time and time again within our wonderful community’. This certainly isn’t the first time refugees have been welcomed in Stroud; friendship, language lessons, and practical support have been extended to arrivals from Afghanistan and Syria in recent years, but the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, the first of its kind in the UK, has given homeowners an unprecedented opportunity to offer shelter by sharing their own space. Those appalled by horrific scenes on the news are able to take direct action, inviting victims of the conflict to step off the screen and into their living room, almost literally. Stroud host Carly Fields said ‘It has been a wonderful experience, we have shared many tears but also much laughter. None of us know what the future holds for Ukranians, all we can do is offer our homes, our hearts and our support for as long as they need all three’.
The scheme has been successful, but changing circumstances, the cost of living crisis, and the realities of remote rural living mean that for some, it is at best a short-term solution. Six months on, many hosts need their rooms back to accommodate family, or for other personal reasons. Ukrainian guests – some single, some with families – who are unable to return to Ukraine just yet, will need new hosts, or to find affordable rented accommodation, in the same area if possible, to avoid relocating children already settled in school. For those who considered hosting initially but declined, because they were unable to provide all the logistics needed to support new arrivals, the option of offering a room to Ukrainians in need of a second placement, or follow-on host, may now appear a viable way of helping, especially through the government’s Rent-a-Room scheme which offers tax break incentives. David Nathan explains how further efforts by his neighbours have led to successful re-matches of guests when the first hosts have needed their space back: ‘Through community contacts and local support new hosts have come forward who are delighted to have a chance to help those who have to move on. Now people who have a spare room to share or rent can do so even if they haven’t got the time to arrange visas, or book biometric passport or Universal Credit appointments, because all of that has been sorted already’
The information evening also hopes to attract more hosts for new arrivals escaping Ukraine, and will offer those interested a wealth of knowledge and information, as well as advice to those wishing to offer follow-on hosting, or to become a landlord to Ukrainian tenants. Experienced SURCS co-ordinators, along with members of Gloucester County Council, will explain how the scheme works for hosts and guests, including the financial support available to hosts who are able to host for either 6 or 12 months and information about the Rent-a-Room scheme. Ukrainian refugees will also share their moving stories of having successfully found shelter and safety in Stroud District.
Please register for the event at: stroudbrewery.co.uk/pages/events
What can Cirencester do?
Although we don’t currently have an equivalent group in Cirencester, SURCS welcome Cirencester residents to the meetings and share advice and practical help here where they can.
William Gardiner from Cirencester set up a local WhatsApp group here, and shares the info from SURCS to the local group.
William manages the group and forwards info and requests to the members.
To contact him to join the WhatsApp group you can email email@example.com
To keep up to date with what’s going on in town, feel free to join our Facebook group by clicking here.