With no end in sight to the conflict in Ukraine, the problem of how to house the 600-odd Ukrainian refugees in Herefordshire is growing.

Tom Milton is operations manager at St Peter’s church in Hereford, which “has found a surprise niche supporting the refugee sponsors”, he said at their weekly get-together in the church.

The original six-month accommodation that many committed to is coming to an end, making follow-on housing a pressing issue for many.

“It will be an increasing struggle to ensure they don’t end up in tricky situations,” he said.

“If there is no easy housing option, they will have to declare themselves homeless. But there was an accommodation problem in the county before they arrived.”

Property agencies “won’t take tenants who have been in the country less than a year, or who are unable to put up six months’ rent in advance”, he explained.

“There are still a number waiting to come over, and we are running out of sponsors. There a lot of big houses in the country, but they want to be in the city, where only so many houses are big enough.”

Next door at a refugees’ social meeting of the local branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, branch chair Olga Tverdokhlib agreed that accommodation is “the main worry”.

“They are very grateful to their sponsors, but what happens when they are told, ‘You have to leave’?”

Given the high bar set by letting agencies, Herefordshire Council could work with private landlords to bring forward currently empty properties, she suggested.


The council has just launched a community integration grant scheme to help Ukrainian guests settle into the county, offering grants of up to £100,000 to community organisations, clubs, charities and others between now and July next year.

Integration support could include community events, translation services and help with advice and support.

Coun Pauline Crockett, cabinet member for health and adult wellbeing, said: “This scheme will allow more organisations to provide our guests with more of the services and activities that many of us take for granted.

“This will be an enormous help for Ukrainian families as they settle here while the war in their country continues.”

The sum comes on top of a £2.5 million package announced by the council at the start of last month, half of which was to go on “rent top-up and goodwill payments”,

St Peter’s church has applied for funding for a full-time support worker, but this could take two months to get someone in post, Mr Milton said.

“Meanwhile, some of our volunteers, particularly the Ukrainians, are at the point of burn-out.”

Hereford Times: Local hosts Peter, Ian and Danielle (top row), and Ukrainian refugees Svitlana, Katia, Natasha and AlexanderLocal hosts Peter, Ian and Danielle (top row), and Ukrainian refugees Svitlana, Katia, Natasha and Alexander (Image: LDRS)


Peter, retired, Bullingham

“Since May we have had a couple, their three-year-old daughter and 18-year-old nephew. We have a practically self-contained property so we aren’t on top of each other. But we have no public transport so we have had to be a taxi service.

“There is confusion about driving licences, and it would also help if the housing situation was clarified and made easier.

“We get on well with our guests, and now they are working, they are able to contribute to costs. But there have been some horror stories.”

Ian, retired, Hereford

“I have been hosting a mother and grown-up daughter from Kyiv for two months. I was bereaved a couple of years ago and it has been an opportunity to do something positive.

“The succession is key – what happens when the six-month sponsorship period runs out? I have offered them 12 months to allow them to build up some capital and become more self-sufficient.

“The big problem in Herefordshire is the lack of available properties. Social housing is limited and allocated based on need. Local people will say, ‘what about us?’

“It’s a national problem and I don’t have much faith in the current administration sorting it out.”

Danielle, sustainability consultant, Fownhope

“We’ve had a mother and nine-year-old son for two months. They have their own room but we share the rest of the house. They are keen to work and to integrate, but being rural, it’s hard for them.

“The challenge is where they go next. They’d like to put down roots in Herefordshire, but in the private rented sector there is the need for credit ratings and funds up-front

“The assistance from the church has been brilliant. Taking on guests is a big deal, and anyone new to it should seek out support, both practical and emotional, from groups like this.”


Svitlana, from Sumy region, now in Bodenham

“I have left my mother and father behind – like many they didn’t want to leave.

“Transport is difficult when you aren’t a driver. I have a licence but can’t afford a car. The bus is expensive too, it goes at 7.45am and returns at 5.30pm, so it limits the work I can do.

“I do want to work though, to give something to my hosts and send something back to my family.”

Katia, from Vinnitsya, now in Hereford

“Since August I am living with a family, she is Polish, he is from Hereford, and they have a daughter. I am happy there. Not everyone has been so lucky.

“Many of us are educated, some speak English, we don’t want to stay on social support. I used to be a doctor but changed jobs because the salaries in Ukraine are low. Here I am a support worker for people with disabilities.

“I can’t complain – I am in a safe place, I have company and support, everything except my family.”

Natasha and Alexander, from Cherkasy region, now in Hereford

“I work at the Halco fastener factory – they have been helpful to Ukrainians – while Natasha looks after the children.

“We had to leave the house we were in because the owners wanted to sell it. The council has found us rooms in a guesthouse which we share with our two boys, aged 15 and 10.

“We can’t have guests, properly cook or wash clothes. It’s hard for the boys. We want to move out but letting agencies want six months’ rent in advance and a guarantor – they set the bar high.”