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Transforming housing systems – equality, justice, and fairness for all

Housing and Homelessness Programme / Partner story

Photo from Shutterstock

Throughout 2021, as the Covid-19 persisted, many of our partners across the UK and the US have focused on ensuring safe and secure homes for migrant communities, particularly for those who are undocumented, such as refugees, asylum seekers, and those with uncertain immigration status. Below you can read more about some of their recent achievements:

In Scotland, Homeless Network Scotland is working, as part of a consortium, to identify collective actions that will end homelessness for migrant people left destitute due to the NRPF policy. With the support of four facilitators who have lived experience of homelessness, the consortium has co-designed the Fair Ways initiative. This is a whole systems approach, which means responsibility for housing migrants with NRPF is shared with the Scottish Refugee Council, the Refugee Survival Trust, Safe in Scotland, Simon Community Scotland, and Turning Point Scotland.

These various organisations specialise in supporting, advising, and accommodating people seeking asylum. Together they work to ensure that people are provided with secure housing and access to essential services, support, and advice – in efforts to reach the ambitious but achievable aim of ending destitution in Scotland.

Across the Atlantic in the US, HIAS Pennsylvania works to provide legal and social services to low income and at-risk migrants and refugees. In summer 2021, as the crisis in Afghanistan unfolded, the organisation stepped up to provide Afghan refugees with both legal and social support. In September 2021, it significantly expanded its legal service by recruiting and training 600 attorneys to represent US Afghan residents, fighting to secure the safe exit of their relatives out of Afghanistan.

HIAS PA’s own office manager’s wife and children, who were resettled in Philadelphia in 2019, were trapped in Kabul and had a harrowing escape. HIAS PA resettled newly arrived Afghan refugees daily throughout October 2021. Recognising a need to make sure they are supported through an expediated asylum claim process, HIAS PA has also trained pro bono attorneys in asylum law.

The Right to the City Alliance is a US-based national alliance with a strong commitment to migrant justice. Migrants (especially undocumented migrants of colour) are regularly taken advantage of by landlords or left out of traditional affordable housing programmes, and are a big priority for Right to the City’s member groups, with many working at the intersection of housing justice and migrant rights. Two of these are 9to5 Colorado, a membership organisation that specialises in supporting working women, and Inquilnxs Unidxs Por Justica (IX), which works to transform the Minneapolis housing system.

9to5 organises migrants, many of whom are undocumented, in mobile home communities, thus helping to stop the displacement of their communities. By turning mobile home parks into co-ops, it prevents the land from being sold on the speculative market. Similarly, IX supported a group of migrant residents living in an apartment block to fight back against a landlord who would not carry out repairs on the property and who was unjustly evicting people. IX pressured the landlord through the courts and public education campaigns into selling the property to IX, which will better take care of the tenants.

Oak’s Housing and Homelessness Programme supports organisations that use their understanding of individual problems that people experience, to expose and help change faults in systems. We remain deeply grateful for the energy and commitment of all our partners, who, as the pandemic has persisted, continue to provide essential support to their communities, while challenging the systems that make people homeless in the first place. Collectively they have continued to improve and increase rights for renters, as well as access to secure housing.