Two things have happened recently:
WYDAN (West Yorkshire Destitute Asylum Network) passed a proposal at its AGM in March to wind up its operations because of the establishment of regional NACCOM (the NO Accommodation Network) hubs which are designed essentially to be a network of asylum-seeker support organisations.
And then, COVID-19, which led to the closing of the night shelter and the handing over of the guests to the local authority for accommodation and food. While there were difficulties including the loss of support given by night shelter volunteers, the guests have been pleased to have their own rooms with a wash basin in each. One had COVID symptoms and was isolated in a small hotel in Leeds where he recovered. It is not clear how long local authority support can last, nor when or if night shelter provision might be resumed, though WYDAN wishes to do this if possible.
Following the decision to wind up WYDAN, members of the Night Shelter Steering Group agreed to start a new charity which would have as its central aim the provision of accommodation and support for destitute asylum seekers. The advent of Coronavirus and the uncertainty surrounding future methods of providing a night shelter has led us to focus on the setting up of two family-style houses to cater for 8 individuals for a period of time. This needs to be done without delay, because, in the light of the pandemic, the provision of opportunities to isolate in separate rooms and have adequate washing and hygiene facilities is paramount. Being in a house will also allow the guests to have accommodation for daytime as well as overnight, giving them more stability to pursue their asylum claims, improve their general health and well-being and have more independence. We have been working on the constitution and application details which have been presented to the Charity Commission. The new charity is called LEDAS – Leeds Destitute Asylum-seeker Support.
We are looking for all sorts of assistance:
with our search for suitable accommodation - two houses in the first instance, each with at least four bedrooms, kitchen, lounge, preferably two bathrooms and separate lavatory, front and back door, a bit of garden or yard. We plan to approach the local authority, faith groups, community groups and private individuals. Your help with suggestions of those to approach would be greatly valued.
people with DIY skills to help make the houses ready and in good condition.
donations of furniture, white goods and other household needs.
volunteers to be befrienders, translators, people who are able to teach cooking, English or computer skills, or first aid skills. Anything else you can think of that would help to support and make people's lives more manageable and enjoyable. We will operate with all necessary social distancing.
We have applied to register with the Charity Commission, and are setting up a bank account. We hope to have completed this process very soon, but we are already looking for ways to obtain houses right away.
Please feel free to forward this email to anyone you think might be interested in knowing about, supporting and contributing to our work.
Until LEDAS has received charitable status and opened its own bank account, RETAS (a charity supporting refugees in Leeds) has kindly agreed to receive and hold all donations on our behalf. Any money donated to LEDAS via RETAS will be recorded as LEDAS’ funds and will be kept separate in RETAS’ systems. One of our trustees, Matt Thornfield, is also the treasurer of RETAS and is managing the process on behalf of both organisations.
Sort code: 40-27-44
Account number: 40037680
Account name: Retas Leeds
We would be delighted to hear any questions you might have, as we have found that people's questions help to shape our thinking.
Gillian Tober, Jenny Willison, Sally Brown, Tony Pickles and Matt Thornfield
Trustees of LEDAS June 2020