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Homes for Ukraine: Opening Your Home and Your Heart

As the conflict in the Ukraine continues, Homes for Ukraine scheme is still keen to hear from people that are interested in hosting a Ukrainian guest, as Paul Crompton from East Sussex County Council explains

Compassion is a human instinct as old as recorded history. We see it all the time when tragedy strikes; people are quick to offer a helping hand either physically or through donations. Compassion can be shown in a simple smile or a hug. For people hosting on the Homes for Ukraine scheme, it’s welcoming a stranger into their lives.

To date, East Sussex residents have opened their homes and hearts to nearly 2,000 strangers who want to rebuild their lives in our county, following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022.

For some like Mayfield resident Kathryn Pogson, who was initially unsure about opening her home, it felt like the right thing to do. “If the situation were different and my grown-up children needed refuge, I’d be really sad if nobody could offer help,” she said.

For others, like Debbie Moore, a spare room and a desire to help was enough motivation. But it wasn’t until she heard of the Homes for Ukraine scheme that the Balcombe resident realised a way to help. "Often it's very difficult to do something where you are physically helping as opposed to maybe having to do it from afar,’ Debbie said of her reason for joining the scheme.

Debbie welcomed her guest Natallia, and her cat, a few months after the scheme launched in March 2022.

A need to help

With so much happening in the world, it’s easy to understand how the conflict in Ukraine may have strayed from people’s thoughts. But as the Homes for Ukraine scheme marks its second anniversary it's important to remember that Ukrainians still need our help and support. 

To date, more than 800 host families have helped more than 1,800 guests rebuild their lives in East Sussex. However, those numbers tell only a small part of the hosting story.

Beyond sharing their homes, hosts have guided guests as they became part of our community. They’ve helped them find jobs and, in some cases, given guests the confidence to move into their own homes.

While people continue to flee the conflict, there are also many Ukrainians unable to return to their country. They still need a safe place to live. While they might already have jobs and their children have schools, these guests need a little more time and help before they are ready to live independently. A home will be the final piece of the jigsaw they need to complete the rebuilding of their life in our wonderful county.

Being a host

Today, 311 host families offer shelter and support to 594 guests staying in hosted accommodation through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Hosts, local groups, and organisations work side-by-side to offer support and provide services to Ukrainians looking to settle and achieve independence in the UK.

Of course, it’s not all plain sailing. There are challenges when you invite a stranger into your home.

“There is that whole idea of it being a stranger, and I suppose one of the most challenging aspects is language," said Kathryn. "I don’t speak any Ukrainian, but we got by with a lot of hand waving and gestures, and with her reasonable grasp of English, we sort of managed, and it became funnier rather than a problem.

“You can’t follow a pattern. You have to take on board the human being that’s joined you and find your way together. You just need a bit of patience and kindness.”

Kathryn added: “I have been impressed by the Homes for Ukraine scheme. If I needed anything Homes for Ukraine were very good at helping and they set up lots of social things for guests to get involved with. It’s a really well-balanced, well-run scheme.”

For Debbie, it was like having another member of the family. ‘Well, in fact, she's a bit like the daughter I never had,’ she said of her guest Natallia.

How to get involved

If you can offer a home to Ukrainian guests and support them to build a secure independent life, or if you would like to learn more about becoming a host, visit East Sussex County Council’s Homes for Ukraine webpage:

www.eastsussex.gov.uk/community/supporting-refugees/ukraine/could-you-provide-a-safe-home-for-ukrainian-guests

Alternatively, you can email ukraine@eastsussex.gov.uk or call the Homes for Ukraine team on 01273 337010, 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday for an informal chat.

Remember, you won’t be alone when you become a host. There’s lots of support available to you, from help with money to English lessons for your guests. There’s also advice on how to help your guest find work or move into their own home when the time comes.

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