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The theme for Refugee Week 2024 is ‘Our Home’. This can mean different things to people. For many of our guests at Glass Door, ‘Home’ is forged in the community of support provided on their route out of homelessness, to a place of refuge, a place of safety.  

At Glass Door we take pride in our ‘open access’ policy; we will provide advice and support to anyone who is homeless, vulnerably housed or threatened with homelessness. For guests of our services, including those who have been forcibly displaced from their homes, are seeking protection and have been subjected to the failings of the UK’s broken asylum system, we offer a warm welcome, shelter, and tailored support.  

Over last winter we supported an unprecedented number of refugees experiencing homelessness, the result of a ‘perfect storm’ of ill-conceived and badly managed changes to Home Office policy and practice.  

Changes to asylum support policy implemented from August 2023 left many newly recognised refugees with only 7 days’ notice to arrange move on options from asylum accommodation before they were evicted. This coincided with the introduction of the ‘streamlined asylum process’, the government’s attempt to clear the backlog of asylum cases.  

Without forewarning, the Home Office started evicting refugees from asylum accommodation en masse. Homelessness numbers rose exponentially across the UK, and Local Authorities and frontline services struggled to meet demand. According to government figures there was a 965% increase in rough sleeping after leaving asylum accommodation in England between July 2023 and December 2023. 

A survey by London Councils found when London’s severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) was activated in response to temperatures plummeting in January, 242 (20%) of the 1,284 rough sleepers placed in emergency accommodation were refugees previously housed by the Home Office.

Over our last night shelter season, which ran from 6th Nov 2023 to 8th April 2024, the total number of referrals was 80% higher than the previous year; of the 393 shelter guests who engaged with caseworkers, the most common reason for homelessness was eviction from Home Office accommodation. 

Following a significant backlash the government U-turned and the asylum support cessation policy was reversed. As it stands, refugees receive 28 days-notice that their asylum support will end from receipt of their BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) which evidences their rights to public services.  

Despite the collective relief over the U-turn, a ‘great deal of irreversible harmhad been done; enormous human cost and increased pressure on local authorities and frontline services. Further, the fact remains that even 28 days is not enough time to find a job and housing. At a minimum the move-on period from asylum accommodation should be aligned with the Homelessness Reduction Act relief duty of 56 days.

Homeless refugees in London suffer the same impact from the housing and cost of living crisis as the wider homeless population. Additionally, they face unique challenges, for example navigating new systems and processes, family separation and psychosocial stress and trauma, for which there is little available specialist support. 

Glass Door and our partners across the homelessness and migrant sector are at the frontline of repeated crises, weathering the storms as best we can - providing shelter, advice and support, and responding flexibly by adapting services to need.  

About Glass Door's Migrant Project

Glass Door’s Migrant Project works to support and advocate for homeless and destitute non-UK nationals. We assist people to navigate the enormous complexities and challenges of the asylum and immigration systems. We provide advice and guidance to guests of our service, and work in partnership with statutory and non-statutory agencies to influence policy and practice in response to migrant homelessness.