The asylum system is tough and people seeking refugee protection sometimes fall through the cracks. We offer practical advice and support to people in crisis.

Helping people experiencing destitution

Last year, we helped more than 350 people who were experiencing destitution, homelessness and extreme poverty.

We are there to listen, help people access medical and mental health services, get legal advice and find food, clothing and homelessness support.

Bernard’s story

Bernard (not his real name) has been in the UK asylum system for over 16 years. He is 64 years old.

In 2018 the Home Office rejected Bernard’s request for refugee protection. But he can’t be returned to his home country, the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, because it isn’t safe.

Like so many people seeking sanctuary, Bernard is stuck in limbo. The UK government don’t want to provide him with accommodation or financial support. But they won’t let him work and earn money to support himself either. As a result, he is homeless and destitute.

Bernard arrived in Glasgow with no money, nowhere to live, no friends or family, and an no idea where to turn for support. He was sleeping on the streets when he reached out to us for help.

Bernard suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, which causes swelling in his legs making it difficult for him to walk. We immediately referred him to a homeless GP service where he could get the medical care he so desperately needed.

We also helped Bernard find legal support in Scotland and worked with his lawyer to track down information about his case.  Unfortunately, lengthy Home Office delays are preventing Bernard’s new solicitor from getting vital information needed to work on his case, leaving him at risk of long-term homelessness.

With our help, Bernard applied for an emergency grant so he can pay for essentials like food and medicine. We also got him a bus pass so he can use public transport and put him in touch with charities providing hot food, warm clothes and laundry facilities.

Bernard had no way of accessing vital online services. We gave him a phone and SIM so he can use the internet, contact his GP and stay in touch with his lawyer.

Life is often lonely for people like Bernard, who have insecure immigration status. To help tackle the feelings of boredom and isolation, he has signed up for our Volunteering Information Afternoons to meet with organisations looking for volunteers.

Due to his age and complex health problems, we were very worried about Bernard sleeping on the streets. Working alongside his lawyer, we successfully applied for him to be given emergency temporary Home Office accommodation and financial support to cover the cost of basic essentials.

We also helped Bernard apply for charity accommodation. He is currently on the waiting list and we hope he will soon have somewhere safe and warm to call home.

Changes to Home Office policy are leaving hundreds of people out in the cold this winter. We have seen a worrying increase in the number contacting us for help because they have become homeless.
Read our Q&A to find out why this is happening, what changes we’re calling for and what to do if you’re worried. 
Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb