A big thank you to everyone who donated to our Big Give Christmas Challenge 2020, and a special thanks to the Medlock Charitable Trust who provided matched funding of £3,750 for the campaign.
Whether you were one of the 11 supporters who pledged matched funding beforehand or the 92 people who donated online, YOU have made a massive difference to the lives of our accommodated members. In fact, our aim was to raise enough funding for our £15 per week Solidarity Fund, but the campaign was so successful that, alongside other grants, the trustees have decided to increase the Solidarity Fund to £20 per week INDEFINITELY! This is something we have been wanting to do for some time, and are so pleased that you have enabled this to happen, so thank you.
One of our asylum seekers Emmet (name changed) got in touch to say why this money was so important to him: "...the Solidarity Fund I receive from Bristol Hospitality Network has been a crucial source of income for me. In 2014, the Home Office issue me an ASU Card with 'Forbidden from taking employment' on it. I resigned from my job and since then I have neither source of income nor recourse to public funds (also known as NRPF). My only survival in meeting up with some of my little essential financial needs depends on BHN's Solidarity Fund. What can I do without the Solidarity Fund, which has saved me from my financial bankruptcy and miserable situation? Absolutely Nothing!"
Members of BHN, like Emmet, came to the UK and were refused asylum, due to not having the right evidence (which is very challenging to understand and acquire). As a result, they are left destitute, with no right to work, rent privately, receive benefits or social housing. Their only option for acquiring income is to work illegally, at high risk of exploitation, marginalisation, and/or rough-sleeping. Many asylum seekers suffer with the effects of PTSD or are living with the consequences of trauma. The only way forward is to make a fresh asylum claim, which requires stability, safety, and advice to achieve successfully.
This is where our services come in. We provide accommodation in the form of our 10-bed house or private-home Hosting Network. We also provide guidance with their asylum claim via our qualified Help Team, and a ready-made community at our Monday Welcome Centre drop-in. However, the latter stopped in March last year, due to COVID-19, but we continue to speak on the phone with our members once a week or fortnightly, and help them access healthcare services and organise food parcels. Our Solidarity Fund of £20 is vital for our members who have no formal sources of income and need this money for bare essentials. Without it, they genuinely would be at greater risk of taking on exploitative work and therefore, risking their health during this pandemic.
Thank you once again for your tireless, committed and continued support of our destitute asylum seekers. Emmet for one is eternally grateful for your solidarity.