FEATURE-Amid housing crisis, Britons shelter homeless refugees in their spare rooms

Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:58am GMT

By Lin Taylor

LONDON, June 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Eritrean refugee Hermon gave birth to her daughter Ruftana in February, her joy quickly turned into fear as she and her husband Yonathan grappled with the overwhelming reality of raising their first child while homeless in London.

Although Hermon and Yonathan were given refugee status in 2015, being unable to find work, they could not afford to rent and shared a cramped one-bedroom flat with Hermon's sister and her two children in south London.

As the family edged closer to breaking point, a caseworker introduced 32-year-old Yonathan to Rachel Mantell, who lived in nearby Brixton and offered them a spare room through Refugees at Home, a charity she helps run that matches homeless refugees with volunteer hosts across Britain.

Tough asylum procedures, limited job opportunities and a shortage of homes in Britain have pushed thousands of refugees and asylum seekers into homelessness, which can spiral into labour abuses and sexual exploitation, charities say.

"If we didn't find Rachel, if we didn't meet her, we could have ended up homeless and sleeping on the streets," said 30-year-old Hermon, who declined to give her full name fearing reprisals against her family in Eritrea after the couple fled the country in 2014 for political reasons.

"Thanks to them, we have a home. They are like family to us. They support us with everything," Hermon said, sipping on a mug of tea in the house that her family now shares with Mantell, her husband Chris and toddler Joseph.


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