Lentara UnitingCare is launching a crowdfunding campaign to provide rent-free accommodation for asylum seekers.
Homelessness is a significant problem for many asylum seekers in Australia. Many of them are not eligible for public housing or homelessness accommodation.
With few work rights or access to government support, they struggle to accumulate the income needed to access private rental. They have to rely on non-government organisations like Lentara UnitingCare for assistance.
Sara Lane works as a case worker for the Asylum Seeker Project.
“Without any income, it is impossible [for asylum seekers] to find housing and there’s such a strain on mainstream housing services as it is for other members of the community who are also struggling,” she said.
“When people don’t have work rights and they aren’t eligible for Centrelink, people end up having to live on the streets.”
Lentara UnitingCare’s Asylum Seeker Project is one of the largest programs of its kind in Victoria. It currently houses 56 asylum seekers but hundreds more are turned away every year because of overwhelming demand.
The project receives no government funding and housing is not cheap. Along with the cost of rent, the project pays for repairs, appliances, bills and basic living expenses such as groceries.
Mohammad Isah, manager of the Asylum Seeker Project, said the crowdfunding campaign will provide crucial support for asylum seekers living in Melbourne.
“If we increased our funds, we would be able to support more people who are seeking asylum and also be able to pay for utility expenses,” he said.
The accommodation is provided by generous individuals, churches and community groups. Many Uniting Church members and congregations such as North Essendon Uniting Church offer property to house asylum seekers.
A female asylum seeker supported by Lentara UnitingCare said the Asylum Seeker Project helped her feel safe and secure in her new country.
“Before, I rented with a woman who was not good to me. When I had no money or food, she would laugh at me,” she told Lentara UnitingCare.
“But here, I am free and happy. The women are friendly. It is peaceful for me to be here now.”
The campaign aims to raise $20,000 by the end of September.
Supporters can select from a range of rewards when they donate to the campaign. These include artwork created by asylum seekers and an invitation to a thank you afternoon tea at the Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre in Brunswick.
The campaign will run until 25 September. Visit the ‘A Home with a Heart’ crowdfunding page to make a donation.