Homelessness can be more than just not having a roof over your head

Being without a home is a challenge in itself. Being homeless and required to apply for a new immigration status based on residence, raises the stakes dramatically. Luckily, help and guidance are provided through various organisations.

In Manchester, the Settled team were partnered by the North West EUSS team from Migrant Help UK. They met with a group of homeless men and women at a weekly drop in at the Booth Centre. Settled explained the ins and outs of the EU Settlement Scheme, while the Migrant Help team assisted some in making their applications.

All participants were delighted Settled had come to see them and several offered to assist with interpretation at future sessions. After the meeting, the team spotted a young man, who sat on a sofa staring at his shoes with his hands covering his face. They went over for a chat, not sure whether he felt confused or upset. He was very young, 18 years old and originally from Austria, and had lived in the UK since he was seven. His passport was no longer valid and he had no other ID documentation.

His accent was hard to place and when they asked where it came from, he explained: “I don’t have my home language, I am a citizen of nowhere”. The team recognised this sense of displacement all too well, of no longer feeling fully ‘at home’ in the place where you had built a new life. To have to apply again for an immigration status you had long taken for granted, you had been given to understand was secure for life, is unsettling enough. It’s hard to imagine what that is like when you also lack a real place to live, when your daily shelter is not secure, and you cannot provide the required documentation to proof your identity or right of residence.

This should not prevent anyone from applying successfully for Settled Status, however. The Home Office will accept letters of support from organisations and charities such as the Booth Centre, explaining their relationship with an applicant over time, as evidence of residence in the UK. With their help the young man will also be able to apply for new ID documents and both will help him to make a successful application.

At drop-ins, such as this one, support organisations can also be ready with phones and computers, to help the EU citizens that attend to make applications there and then. This will help those that face homelessness in maintaining their residence status in the UK. Including the Austrian young man, who, although without a home or UK citizenship, still had lived here for by far the largest part of his life and considered this country his home.

You can find more information on support and advice on the page ‘I am homeless or have no fixed address’.

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