Families in Alton and its surrounding villages are being asked to help Ukrainian refugees with the next stage of their lives in Britain.
Around 150 of them moved to the area in March after fleeing the war in their country. The government asked hosts to guarantee they would house refugees for at least six months, but with that initial period coming to an end many hosts will be asking their guests to move on within weeks.
Ukraine-Alton Mutual Aid, a support group co-ordinating hosting, is now looking urgently for new hosts.
They can host a family or an individual – depending on how much space they have – for another six months, with the government giving them a tax-free £350 each month as a thank you, and Hampshire County Council topping that up with £200 per month for six months.
Alternatively they can rent out an annexe or a room in their house for at least six months to a refugee family or individual.
Some Ukrainians have found work and can afford a fair rent for six months, although most are in minimum wage jobs such as cleaning, dog walking and warehouse work which do not require fluent English.
A Ukraine-Alton Mutual Aid spokesperson said: “Most of the intense work involved in hosting has been done by the hosts who first welcomed their Ukrainian guests – helping them to set up bank accounts, sort their visas, help children get into school and find work. You won’t need to do all this again.
“You will be welcoming people into your homes who have put down a few roots and feel calmer and more settled.
“Most Ukrainian guests now speak at least some English and many are attending English classes locally, making communication easier.”
Mark Rumsby, who is hosting locally, said: “Our guests adapted very quickly from the continual air raid sirens and bombings in Kyiv to the tranquillity of rural Hampshire.
“Getting used to our language, our food, our road rules and our English politeness takes a lot longer!”
Many Ukrainian children are attending local schools, have made friends and are thriving, and many of their mothers – their fathers were required to stay in Ukraine – now have local jobs.
These families would prefer not to have to move from this area and start again.
Tatiana Kirovych, a refugee from Ukraine who recently found work with an accountancy firm and has two children in school locally, said: “Many people came from the hotspots of our country. They saw and heard explosions and some were left homeless in Ukraine.
“Also many families travelled a very long distance and had to live in other countries before getting here. And when everything is fine here with work, school and friends, they do not want to change their place of residence in the first year. That’s why it’s important for families to stay in Alton.”
Hosts and guests are well supported by Ukraine-Alton Mutual Aid, which offers support, meet-ups and new friends and is an information hub for everything to do with hosting.
Penney Hames, a co-ordinator for Ukraine-Alton Mutual Aid, said: “Nobody hosts on their own in and around Alton – there is a good community of fellow hosts ready and willing to support you with advice, friendship and contact.”
East Hampshire District Council will oversee the moves of Ukrainian families to new hosts and make the necessary checks. Anyone interested should call Penney Hames on 07811 217744 or email [email protected].uk