Shambhala London Refugee Project

The worldwide refugee crisis, and the ongoing situation with Syria in particular, is something which I’m sure many of us witness with horror, despair, and a strong feeling of ‘How can I help?’

Thanks to Jim O’Neill, members of Shambhala London have been mobilised to come together and consider what we, as a community, can do to help address the situation. In order to help in a very direct and practical way, we have decided to participate in the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (SVPR) Scheme. Under this scheme, a family from one of the refugee camps around Syria is identified for resettlement within the UK. The first 12 months of their resettlement costs (excluding economic integration) are fully funded by central government through Local Authorities. Additionally, families who are resettled in the UK will have all necessary legal documentation, including the right to work, and to access benefits, healthcare, etc. Councils participating in the scheme will pay Local Housing Authority (LHA) rates for the families’ housing, although they are not responsible for providing the housing – it is up to local communities / individuals to come forward with accommodation for the families.

As a community, we have therefore undertaken to identify and secure a suitable property to be used for the resettlement of a Syrian family, and to support the family with orientation and integration into their new community.

To date, we have had favourable meetings with the people at both Southwark and Lambeth Councils who are responsible for overseeing the VPRS for their Local Authority.

What does this mean in practical terms?

We are looking for a 2-3 (ideally 3) bed rental property (which must have its own front door – i.e. not a shared property) in Lambeth, Southwark or Wandsworth, and will liaise with the landlord and the local authority to ensure it is appropriate for the purpose – if necessary also providing practical support and resources in order to do so. We will provide a warm and friendly welcome to the family from the moment they arrive and ongoing social support to them, to ensure they feel comfortable and familiar with, and integrated within, their local community.

How can you help?

We are hoping that the wider Shambhala community will support our efforts in one of the following ways:

Property. Currently, the priority is to identify a landlord with a suitable property to rent (ideally in Lambeth or Southwark, but also Wandsworth) who is willing to do so for this purpose. Ideally they will commit to renting the property to the family for a minimum of 12 months, although in order to offer increased stability for the family as they settle into their new community we would hope that if possible landlords consider renting their property to them for at least 2 years. So, if you are or know of a landlord who may be able to help, please do get in touch. Alternatively, let us know if you would like to play a part in our co-ordinated search for a property.

Funds. We anticipate that there will be a shortfall between the LHA rate and the actual rental price of the property / what the landlord will be willing to accept. Additionally, it may be that additional items will need to be provided (e.g. furniture, crockery, etc.). We are therefore going to be putting together a fundraising appeal, and will welcome (i) help with this appeal, and (ii) any financial contributions people feel inspired to offer at such time as we ask. Once we have secured a property, we will also inform of the need for any additional specific resources / items.

People. Our greatest strengths as a community are our open-heartedness, our compassion, and the diversity of talents, skills, and experience we collectively possess. We will welcome all offers of time and skills – this can be interpreted in any number of ways (e.g. to help prepare the accommodation (once secured) for the family’s arrival; to help the family get to know and feel a part of their local community, and perhaps London more widely; etc.) and will, of course, be informed by what the family themselves would like and feel would be useful.

Every idea and offer relating to any of the above will be received with gratitude. We extend warm and heartfelt thanks to the people who have already made a range of generous offers (time, money, resources), and very much look forward to the time when we are ready to make good use of these.

If you would like to be involved with this project, or have any thoughts, suggestions or questions, please e-mail refugeeproject@shambhala.org.uk

 

 

Ariela Cravitz is the Refugee Project Coordinator. She also coordinates our volunteers at the London Centre.

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