Appeal for funds!
Despite the loyal and generous support of all our supporters our finances are really tight at the moment. Our money comes from three sources –
1) supporters who subscribe (usually monthly) and provide a regular income,
2) one-off events such as sales and special collections
3) super-boosts such as legacies.
Our problem at the moment is that though are regular supporters are loyal and wonderful, and other wonderful people continue to run one-off events, we have only received one “super-boost” this year – a donation of £,5000. That was specifically for accommodation for our rough sleepers and sadly has now all been spent. Our rough sleepers are out in the streets sleeping rough again – and just at the wrong time of year.
One ray of hope is that a grant-making trust has invited an application which we are certainly going to make and which may bring us funds by the end of the year. If we do succeed it will be a great relief as not only do we have a big need for housing but our client base is growing steadily.
How is the money spent?
A careful analysis of our spending shows that the number of clients we have seen in the first nine months of the year has grown steadily month on month and the amount we have spent on supporting them has risen in proportion. We had 34 clients in January and 59 in September.
Interestingly the amount spent per client remained remarkably similar – it’s not that we’re letting things slip it’s just that there is more demand.
We have found another house to rent and now wait to see if the grant-making trust will fund it. The caravan taught us a few things about running a hostel:
1) We need to make initial contracts with the residents (for, say, six months).
2) We need to appoint a mentor for each resident to make sure they are doing all they can to move their asylum cases forward and help them plan what they will do when the time comes to move on.
3) A house “manager” is advisable to liaise with the trustees and make sure things run smoothly.
We recently had a meeting with some Councillors and housing people from the City and they were enthusiastic about these ideas.
Family in need update
In the last Occasional News we mentioned a family with special needs which was waiting for Government support – and which we had been accommodating for over a week. In the end it took four weeks for the Home Office to take on the support of the four adults and this cost us £1,800 –we only managed to keep it so low because we managed to find them some unoccupied student accommodation and a sympathetic ex-client as a landlord. They were a special case in various ways but it was a lot of money for us to find.
Government breaks one promise
Mr Johnson’s Government has just broken a promise made by Mrs May not to rescind £2.6m of EU funding promised to support refugees in the UK. They have just sent a letter to the Refugee Council telling them that in the event of a no-deal Brexit this funding will be immediately stopped leaving 3,565 vulnerable people without support.
Sign the Refugee Council’s open letter to the Home Office today, demanding they keep their promise.
State run English tuition for asylum seekers has been steadily cut in recent years but Chancellor Sajid Javid said recently he would “put rockets under” a programme to increase spending on English language classes. Sadly though the Government did not allocate a penny to this in the September Spending Review. It’s a good job we have such a strong team of volunteers stepping up to fill the gap! Our English classes are thriving.
ONE WORLD WEEK /JOURNEY’S FESTIVAL
Lots of good things to raise the spirits in these two programmes – get out your diaries and have a look One World Week is church based and runs from 20th to 27th October - it is focused on climate change this year. Journey’s Festival is a professionally run Refugee Arts Festival that runs from 18th to 27th October. Click on the links to see
the programmes. I recommend “Pizza Shop Heroes”, New Theatre Royal, this Sunday, 20th.
All the best, I’m sorry to go on so about money,
A very happy Christmas to all our supporters.
The Drop-in had its traditional Children’s Party on 20th December, an entertainer was there for the children, a buffet lunch served and presents distributed. A happy day. We are now closed till 3rd January - our Christmas break being almost the only break we have.
I was invited to read the lesson in a Cathedral Carol Service this year – my billing being as Chairman, Friends Without Borders. I got the slot done the previous day (there are three Carol Services) by Penny Mordant MP. Other lessons were read by a variety of people including the Lord Mayor, the Vice Chancellor of the University, and the Commander of Portsmouth Naval Base.
It’s gratifying to have Friends Without Borders recognised as a Portsmouth institution.
If you happen to come across somebody thinking of donating anonymously please let them know that being on our supporters list does NOT mean that they’ll be receiving endless appeals. We made an appeal five years ago and only one (rather low key one) since.
Twenty five years!
Not bad for a small local charity. We started as Haslar Visitors Group, visiting immigration detainees in Haslar Prison. We took over the drop-in when another charity abruptly closed and ran it alone for some months till the Red Cross came to join us.
Haslar, renamed an “Immigration Removal Centre” closed in 2015 but by that time we had already changed our name to “Friends Without Borders”.
If anyone remembers the very early days I should be interested to hear from them
Recently, as regular readers know, they have been required to “sign on” eleven miles away at the police station in Fareham. Part of Mrs May’s “hostile environment” think cynical people - but the main police station in Portsmouth is being rebuilt, so perhaps not pure cynicism, though it is not yet clear if the new building will have facilities for signing on.
Meanwhile a team from Holy Trinity Fareham is meeting asylum seekers as they sign on there and offering them coffee. Well done Holy Trinity! The Vicar came to meet us at the drop-in recently.
A Headache for some asylum seekers is that they lose their claims and are told to leave the UK. They don’t have permission to work, rent, drive or hold a bank account. They aren’t given any cash or accommodation by the Government. But some are trying to make fresh claims and some are from countries to which they quite literally cannot go back as their own countries won’t accept them.
There are about twenty like this in Portsmouth. And on any one night four or five will be sleeping rough. We’ve been looking into how we might help them and have had some interesting advice from Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group. They were renting some rooms for destitute asylum seekers but were advised by a top lawyer that under the Right to Rent Act they could not rent rooms but could rent a complete housing unit for use as a “hostel”.
We’d like to find a “housing unit” ourselves, at least for January and February.
The B word
We wait, as do they, to see what the new rules will be.
Michael Woolley, Chairman
Michael Woolley, Chairman Friends Without Borders
Office - 023 9283 9222
Office address: All Saints Centre, Commercial Road, Portsmouth PO1 4BTto edit.
The MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, has started running a monthly surgery for asylum seekers at our drop-in. This is great - two of his assistants come and give advice – valuable as they have access to the Home Office (a special telephone number) which we do not: there are things an MP can do which we cannot. As far as we know we are the only drop-in in the country offering an on-site MP’s surgery. We arranged the service and are sharing it with the Red Cross.
We have a number of clients in this category and have recently carried out a survey to find out how many and how they are sustaining themselves.
It was a small survey but indicates that about 20 are currently homeless - 15 “sofa surfing” and 5 living on the streets. A volunteer is currently preparing a report and proposals as to how we can help them – you will be hearing more!
Liverpool Trips and Signing-on
We have had a number of people recently who have had to go to Liverpool to hand over papers for a fresh asylum application.
We also have a number of clients who are required to “sign-on” at a local police station – until recently Portsmouth but now Fareham 9 miles away. Friends Without Borders pays for these journeys, the costs of getting to Liverpool vary but we’ve recently decided to give all travellers a straight £100 to include a little money for refreshment en route.
A Fareham trip costs £5 return on the bus. One trustee has drafted a letter of protest to his MP. We hope that others will send similar letters – it’s better if you rewrite in your own words – but political pressure really is needed.
Portsmouth to be a “City of Sanctuary”
One World Week
- A World without Borders – a talk and discussion at the Portsmouth Friends’ Meeting House on Tuesday 23rd from 19:00 till 21:00. This is in partnership with Journeys Festival.
- One World Week Celebration at the Discovery Centre, St John’s RC Cathedral on Wednesday 24th from 14:00 to 16:30. Activities, stalls on theme of change. Do think about what you might come and do! Cakes from around the world
Journeys Arts Festival
I do not propose leaving the charity or giving up all the work I do but I shall be 75 next birthday and feel it’s time for someone else to take the helm.
Michael Woolley, still Chairman