Spotlight on our Destitution Service - Refugee Council
May 2, 2024

Spotlight on our Destitution Service

The strength and resilience of the people we work with is just remarkable.

My name is Kellie and I am the Destitution Coordinator at the Refugee Council. My job is to help people who are experiencing destitution and attend our drop-in centre in Dalston, which exists to support people out of destitution. The people who come to us are not allowed to work and are sometimes not entitled to any accommodation. Their options are very limited and for many everything has just become harder and harder over the years.

People can come to the centre to access some of their basic needs: a hot meal, shower and laundry facilities, a little bit of travel money and lots of emotional support. These are basic things that we all need access to.

We give advice to people who are experiencing destitution and homelessness. We try to help them through a time of crisis, when they don’t know where else to turn. When Ruba, a refugee from Sierra Leone who is blind first reached out to us, he was in a precarious situation facing eviction and several obstacles to getting suitable accommodation. We provided hardship payments and connected him with housing support. 

 Kellie providing support to Ruba, refugee from Sierra Leone Kellie providing support to Ruba, refugee from Sierra Leone

Each Friday at the centre is a whole new day. Our Destitution Service relies on volunteers, so each day is planned according to how many volunteers we’ll have. The safety of the people accessing the service always comes first. The need for services for people experiencing destitution is huge. Other organisations are also supporting people through this, as there are so many in desperate situations all around the country.

The need for services for people experiencing destitution is huge.

We have a holistic approach to supporting people who need our help which relies on understanding their needs. When we first meet someone who needs our support they are often bewildered, hungry, tired, haven’t slept and would just like to have a shower and go to sleep. We try to find out what each person needs most as quickly as possible, and we often need interpreters so people can express themselves in their own language.

We want to provide something that is consistent, when everything else is not. We open and close the centre at the same time each week, and we are there every single week. The centre is something predictable in their lives. It helps refugees experiencing destitution feel safe in a hostile environment. 

The centre is something predictable in people’s lives

Refugees facing destitution need your support

Nobody deserves to go hungry or sleep on the streets. Please support refugees like Ruba to rebuild their lives.

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We provide travel money to cover people’s visits to the centre, as well as regular hardship payments which provide some consistency and choice. Outside of our support, refugees have very little choice, given they are not allowed to work or pick their own housing, and they have a lot of barriers to overcome. Even a small amount such as £5 gives someone freedom to buy food from a market, including food that reminds them of home. Refugees have often suffered so many losses: their family, home, culture and yet I’m struck by how resilient the people I meet every day are.  

Seeing people transform is amazing. With the right support people can get back on track. We are part of a very small conveyor belt of their life. Many of the volunteers at the centre were once in this situation themselves. All we want is for people to have the chance to achieve success, however they define itwith choices and basic human rights.