News release from 21/11/2022
Support for Ukraine: It all starts with a spare room
A major campaign has been launched to appeal for more hosts in South Cambridgeshire and the city of Cambridge to support families from Ukraine.
So far under the Homes for Ukraine programme, around 740 people from Ukraine have arrived in South Cambridgeshire, with approximately 400 more in Cambridge. The Homes for Ukraine scheme allows UK residents to sign-up to host guests, often women and children, who have fled the war in Ukraine.
Between the two areas, a total of almost 500 hosts have already been providing housing to guests. However, with the war in Ukraine continuing, and with it not being safe for many families to return, there is an ongoing demand to provide them with a safe place to stay.
Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, hosts sign up to provide a home to guests for a minimum of six months. However, around 20% of current hosts are not able to continue past that initial six-month point. So, the guests who have been staying with them would benefit from alternative accommodation locally, so that they can continue to build on the relationships and community connections they have already been able to make.
South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils have therefore launched a joint campaign to recruit extra hosts. Anyone who can offer a spare room and warm welcome is being asked to text ROOM to 88802 so that the councils can support them through the process and match hosts to guests who have already started to settle in the local area.
Hosts receive comprehensive support from the local councils, along with a £350 monthly Government ‘Thank you’ payment. Both councils are also offering extra opt-in monthly payments to hosts of £150, in response to feedback about rising costs of housing guests, particularly over the winter months.
Kristina, a language teacher from Ukraine who is currently staying in Cambridge, said: “My first decision was to stay, but then it got kind of scary with all the bombing. We really need all the support we can get, and we need good people. We need good people that are full of light. We need the light to defeat the darkness.”
Current host Isobel Blakeley, from Linton, said: “You can't change the world, but I can change the life of one person and if I can make one person's life easier and happier, then I want to do it. To let them have a little bit of their own space in your home so that they can build their life again is really a gift. It's a privilege.”
The campaign will feature eye-catching messages centred around the fact that the only requirement local households need to be able to become a host is a spare room. Television adverts will be broadcast to Sky customers in Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire, digital indoor and outdoor signage will be used, and adverts will be placed in local newspapers. Social media appeals – featuring the experiences of existing hosts and guests – will also be published.
Anyone who can offer a room is being asked to text ROOM to 88802.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Communities, Cllr Bill Handley, commented: “It’s been wonderful to see people in South Cambridgeshire open their homes to welcome people fleeing the terrible war in Ukraine and providing a safe and secure place for them to stay. Hundreds of guests have arrived in the district throughout the year – striking-up friendships and building connections in communities but we now need to ask for more help. We need local people to step-forward and sign-up as hosts, so that our guests from Ukraine have the best possible chance of remaining in and around the communities that have welcomed them so warmly.”
Cambridge City Council’s Executive Councillor for Equalities, Anti-Poverty and Wellbeing, Cllr Mairéad Healy, said: “Thank you to everyone who has already worked to support families and individuals as they’ve settled into life in Cambridge – starting schools, finding work, and forming friendships.
“Understandably some current hosts aren’t able to continue beyond the six months they initially signed up for, as circumstances may have changed. So to help ensure people can stay in the areas where they’ve started to feel at home, we’re hopeful that a new batch of enthusiastic hosts will come forward. All you need is a desire to help and a spare room.”