What a year 2020 turned out to be. Since Covid-19, when night shelters were no longer a safe place to be, a small group of five have worked very hard to bring about a more lasting solution for the group of asylum seeking men who have no recourse to public funds.  From the first lockdown in March, the Government initiative of “everyone in” was brought about, where all homeless people, including those in Night Shelters were accommodated by the local authority in hotels or hostels. We kept up regular contact with the group of asylum seekers whom we have known for years in some cases.

LEDAS (Leeds Destitute Asylum-seekers Support) then came about from discussions in meetings held in early May, so that a constitution, a business plan and an application to the Charity Commission were submitted and in record time, in June, we were granted Charitable status. From then on we networked and forged links with many other charities and agencies working for the same client group.

We worked very closely with Leeds City Council with elected members and senior officers from SAFER Leeds and Housing Options. Leeds is a City of Sanctuary and this was evidenced by the support and encouragement we were given.

Eventually, after the initial lease for the hostel was extended from the original 6 months to the end of November; LEDAS together with Leeds City Council and PAFRAS (Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) drew up an agreement for us to work together, in the best interests of the group of the men who had to leave the hostel.

Exactly 8 months to the day, since the Council took the men into their care, on the 25th November we moved them back into our care, in 2 houses in Harehills Leeds, preventing them from becoming street homeless.

We feel we are moving towards our residents having the opportunity to live independently, for example, they are enjoying having privacy, a key to the door and being able to cook for themselves, what they want and when they want to eat. They have the time to gather new evidence whilst pursuing their claim for leave to remain. Once successful, we can then look at new referrals to our houses.

This is just the beginning of our work, as these properties, from two private landlords, are short term lets.  Currently we are exploring a more permanent solution and looking for suitable accommodation.   Fundraising is always a perennial task but with the current climate it is proving more difficult. We are looking for two 4 bedroom properties in Leeds that ideally could be donated or bought for our use and perhaps let to us on a peppercorn rent. We would maintain them internally, provide insurance and pay the utilities.  We have received many offers of help both financially and practically; it is humbling…

How can you help? Have you considered giving a regular amount, monthly/ annually?      Tony Pickles –   Trustee of LEDAS

Website: https://www.ledas.org.uk/  – for more information

Giving in Lent : During this season we traditionally think of the needs of the vulnerable and those less fortunate than ourselves and take some action. One of those actions is to give – either by sharing from our own abundance, or by intentionally having less of something ourselves in order to give to others.

“I was hungry and you gave me food…I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”

This year we have chosen to encourage our church family and friends to financially support the needs of the hungry and the homeless by giving to two local charities:- firstly to our local FoodBank and secondly to the newly-formed LEDAS Charity. LEDAS is a much needed follow on to the previous Night Shelters run across many churches during the winter months, and a response to the all-year round needs of the homeless asylum seekers in our city – see attachment sent out previously .

We suggest for those who want to have a Lent Box / Jar, as many of us traditionally have done, that you set up your own and place it somewhere visible and collect over the weeks. If you are struggling to actually have ‘real money’ at the moment you may wish to slip in a series of IOU messages as a commitment to what you might then give in a lump sum. At the conclusion of Lent, this ‘giving’ can then be either brought to church when that is once again possible, or can be ‘delivered / posted’ to us. For those who are comfortable with on-line fundraising we have also set up a JustGiving page for this purpose. Just use the following link and follow the instructions:- https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stjamesthegreatchurch-manston

Again at the end of Lent all money raised will be split between the 2 charities.