Blackpool people ready to open up their homes to Ukrainian refugees

The government has called on Britons to give sanctuary to some of the thousands of Ukrainian civilians forced to flee their homes following the invasion of Russian troops – but is this possible for the thousands of people already struggling to make ends meet?

By Wes Holmes
Wednesday, 16th March 2022, 4:55 am

Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, people will be able to nominate a named individual or a family to stay with them rent-free, or in another property, for at least six months in exchange for a £350 monthly payment.

Fylde coast MPs say they have had interest from constituents willing to host refugees in their homes while other residents have told The Gazette they welcome the idea of taking in Ukrainians whose lives have been thrown into turmoil following the outbreak of the war.

Emma Brambles said: “Remember these people have not chosen to leave their homes. There are places that are trying to match people up with homes they think would work for them. They are not scroungers.”

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ZAHONY, HUNGARY - MARCH 12: People queue to board a train back to Ukraine across the border from Hungary on March 12, 2022 in Zahony, Hungary. More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia's military offensive, according to the UN. Hungary, one of Ukraine's neighbouring countries, has welcomed more than 144,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine after Russia began a large-scale attack. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Corrinne Valente said: “I'm used to making things stretch further, food etc - I've had too. I would be happy to help wherever I can, I'm not bothered about making a profit as long as these families are safe and fed and warm then they can have space our house.”

Elaine Jennifer Alice Landini said: “I have a spare room, it needs decorating but I would let a single person or mother or child have it and let them have the £350 themselves if they have nothing. Only asking for a small contribution to energy bills.”

Sharon Wills added: “These are misplaced women and children, who will be scared and worried about partners and fathers they have left behind.”

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard welcomed Homes for Ukraine Scheme – but said he would not personally accept any refugees.

Photo by Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/Shutterstock (12846148a) An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian's army tank fires in Mariupol, Ukraine Russia War Day In Photos, Mariupol, Ukraine - 11 Mar 2022

He said: “The Homes for Ukraine Scheme is an important step forward on the part of the Government, and I welcome the interest from my own constituents in providing accommodation.

"Key to the success will be providing the refugees with continuity of personal support in the community, and so the home of an MP who is away half the week might not be ideal from that point of view, but I would very much look to work with charities and local churches on how I can help in a practical sense to welcome those fleeing this senseless war.”

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton said: “Britain has a long history of offering a home to those seeking refuge and in addition to being the largest single bilateral donor of aid to Ukraine, providing some £400 million in support, I’m pleased that we are once again providing sanctuary to those seeking war. It’s great to see that so many people have already come forward for the Homes for Ukraine scheme since this was launched only yesterday. The government are supporting households to take in refugees and I’m sure that a number of people on the Fylde Coast will apply for this scheme. As well as supporting Ukraine economically, militarily and diplomatically, we have a moral duty to support those who need refuge and the different pathways the government are rolling out for Ukrainians have the unanimous support of all those in parliament.”

He declined to say whether he would join in the effort to home refugees.

Notarianni Ices are raising money for Ukraine by selling blue and yellow ice cream packages. Pictured are Josh Johnson and Kerry Whitehead.

Overseas, kind-hearted people with the means to help have already begun to offer up their homes as safe havens.

Among these are Frank and Magdelena Johnson, who took a Ukrainian mother and two children into their home near Poznan, Poland, last week.

Their grandson Josh, 28, who works as a manager at Notarianni Ices in Blackpool, said: “They’re both retired; neither of them work so they were able to put all their focus into housing these people.

"They’ve managed to secure school spots for the kids, and they’ve managed to get a job for the mother. It’s not just about providing shelter and food, it’s about giving them an income, an education, some sort of life despite all the chaos that’s going on.

"Poland is a neighbouring country, so they are seeing the brunt of it, but this affects all of Europe. Yes there are difficulties, but I do think that we as a country can do more, starting with allowing more refugees in.

“In terms of people in this country taking them in though, that’s hard to say. If you have a full-time job, it will be tough. But I’m sure there are people who will be willing to do it.”

The ice cream parlour, on Waterloo Road, is currently in the process of selling special blue and yellow sundaes to support Frank and Magdelena, who are looking to take in more refugees in the future.

But there are others on the Fylde coast who say that as the cost of living continues to soar, the £350 a month from the scheme would not be enough to cover rising bills.

In the UK, fuel prices have reached an all-time high, and the rise in the energy bill price cap means energy bills could skyrocket by 54 per cent as of next month.

Shannon Tracey said: "I think it’s a lovely gesture and many will be in a position to offer this, however too many of the population are struggling themselves without the added person or family using extra electricity, gas and food.

"The extra £350 they are offering per month wouldn't even cover the costs of bills and food that are already going up.

"Maybe the government should home them in their expensive estates and country homes. Or invest it in all the empty, abandoned houses around the UK just rotting away."

Elaine Hughes said: "£350 a month is nowhere near enough to feed and house someone."

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith, who also did not say whether she would join the scheme, said: “The generosity of the British people is way ahead of where the Government is on welcoming Ukrainian refugees, it’s been lovely to hear from so many of my Fleetwood constituents wanting to step in and offer a spare room. The Government scheme is welcome but I do have some concerns and unanswered questions. Why isn't the Government playing more of a role in matching sponsors and refugees?

"An individual looking to take part in the scheme would need to have the personal details of the refugee they want to offer a room to. I expect a lot of this will be done by individuals reaching out from Ukraine on social media. Why can't the Government match some of these cases for those who wish to help but don't know how to navigate this on social media?”

To register your interest for the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, visit https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk

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