Olha’s story: helping others find their feet
Ukrainian housing officer Olha is now helping others find their feet. Olha, who works as part of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils’ Ukraine Support, shares her experience leaving Ukraine, arriving in the UK, finding work and accommodation, and settling in her family to life in the UK.
Olha arrived in the UK in May 2022 and came to the country under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
As a Housing Support Officer, Ohla is now helping others in the same situation find their feet and secure accommodation
“As with many other Ukrainian people at beginning of spring 2022, I had to make a very hard decision and leave behind our well-settled life and my job as a lawyer and flee from the war. In a desperate search of a safe place for my children, I got to know about the Homes for Ukraine programme announced by the British government.
“I arrived in Oxfordshire with my two daughters in May 2022, as a guest under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. We have had the most wonderful hosts Jayne and John who have been very helpful and supportive in the most challenging times of our life.
“Our hosts introduced us to their wider family and friends, took us out, drove to see the sights and much more. After things got a bit settled, I started volunteering in local meetings for Ukrainians and then got a temporary job in a summer language school which was wonderful.
“As a mother of two children, I can only guess how all the stress has already influenced and still will impact my children, but I choose to stick to the words of another amazing couple Joanna and Neal who also provided us with incredible support. Once they said to me that all this is character-building for my children, and it is up to me in what colours to present the situation and what lessons to take out. So, I choose to show them that the human relationship is one of the main values in our life and how it is important to be sincere, open and ready to help others.
My new role helping others
“Now I feel very lucky and privileged to be employed by the South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils. I saw the role advertised, applied and started my job at the councils as a Housing Officer in September 2022 in the Ukraine Support Team which is a part of the wider Housing Team.
“The Homes for Ukraine programme has already been running for more than 14 months and so more and more Ukrainian guests need support to move on from their hosts and the main aim of our team is to help with that. Currently there are several options for guests including: continue in the current sponsorship or rematching (finding a new host), formalise the arrangements with the sponsors as lodgers or tenants, or seek rented accommodation on the private market.
“As the demand for accommodation in Oxfordshire is high, we encourage guests to be open-minded and proactive and to consider all possible options.”
Watch Olha’s two-minute video story on YouTube.
“In Ukraine rental accommodation is furnished, but here in the UK most is unfurnished (social housing also comes without white goods and often without carpets). Obviously, people fleeing from the war and arriving to another country do not bring their furniture and most of them would appreciate assistance with free or cheap household items. I know that host families continue supporting their guests in moving on and keeping the relationships which is much appreciated.”
People can get help with furniture from many local community groups, and the councils offer a discretionary Housing Grant of £500 per person in the household when moving into their own property to support furnishing.
For example, two parents and two children moving in to a two-bedroom property for instance could apply for £2,000 to support set up and this doesn’t have to be returned.
Call our housing team on 01235 422452 or email email@example.com
My heartfelt thanks
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all British people who have opened their homes and hearts to Ukrainians in the darkest times and help them rebuild their lives. It is still very unclear what our next steps will be but as long as we are alive and safe all the rest could be overcome.”
Our hosts helped us settle in
“To be honest, at first I thought it was a long shot but still registered my interest with the charity UKUATOGETHER following my intuition. You can’t imagine my surprise when the next day I was contacted by one of the organisers Irene about a potential host family and had ongoing support from Irene and her husband Mike, I was amazed by their kindness, resourcefulness and diligence. They are a real example of open, honest, helpful, entrepreneurial and just true personalities.
Our hosts have done everything possible and even beyond for us to feel welcomed to their home and to start settling into the new country including how to register with different establishments, find school places for my children, advice on job searching and also making our lives more enjoyable.
Our hosts helped us move to a rented property and to kit it out. I will be eternally grateful to them for their kindness and all the huge support. I consider Homes for Ukraine hosting arrangements to be a good starting point for guests to get used to the environment and begin settling in a new country.”
How the councils support refugees
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils, as part of the Oxfordshire system which includes local authority, health and voluntary sector partners working closely together, are supporting people seeking refuge across several schemes. These are Homes for Ukraine, Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy scheme, Afghan Citizens Resettlement scheme, UK Resettlement Schemes, the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa scheme and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
The work we’ve undertaken and continue to provide, co-ordinated through our Community Hub, includes a wraparound support offer to settle guests in the district, providing housing and homeless advice and help as well as community integration support.
Private landlords needed to host guests in Oxfordshire
Are you a private landlord in Oxfordshire with a vacant property? As guests start to rebuild their future and look for more independence, we are looking for landlords who can support their next step. If you would like to informally discuss what is involved, please email the central housing team Oxfordshirehousingcapacity@southandvale.gov.uk