Our Winter campaign, Raise the Roof, aims to fundraise for and raise awareness of the extent of the homelessness problem facing refugees and asylum seekers. Here we introduce you to one refugee who made his way from Ethiopia to the UK in search of sanctuary – and found support from Action Foundation.

Micheal* arrived in the UK in June 2020 amidst the pandemic, following what was a long and hazardous journey from Ethiopia where he had to leave behind his wife Tigest and little boy, Aman, to travel in search of safety.

Four months later he was moved from York to Gateshead and discovered Action Foundation after somebody signposted him to our free English teaching school, Action Language.

As well as registering Micheal for online English lessons during the Covid crisis, Action Foundation also provided him with phone top-ups and shopping vouchers.

He approached his local council for help with housing but there was nothing available, so he was forced to alternate between spending nights at a friend’s tiny flat and sleeping outside on the cold, hard ground.

“My friend was very kind, but he had only one room and we had two beds side by side. It was very squashed, very cramped so I slept outside Gateshead Interchange (a bus station),” Micheal recalls.

“Sleeping outside is very hard. It’s very cold, horrible, it’s smelly. It’s no good for anybody. People don’t talk to you. They don’t say anything, they ignore you. No one asks, ‘Why you sleep here?’ Nobody talk to me.”

Micheal was relieved when he was granted refugee status in June 2022 but he still had nowhere to live so he asked Action Foundation for help and we were able to find him a room in one of our Gateshead properties.

“I shared with two Sudanese men and we had our own rooms and a shared living room, kitchen and bathroom. I feel happy. I say so much thanks because I don’t have to sleep outside,” Micheal says.

Every week he met up with his Action Foundation support worker, Jen, and she helped him with things like registering at a GP’s, applying for entitlements and assisting him with queries around his family reunion claim with the Home Office.

Family reunion

In September this year he received the wonderful news that Tigest and Aman were being allowed to join him in the UK and restart family life proper.

Again, his Action Foundation support worker set about helping Micheal with primary school applications and ensuring everything was ready for their arrival, including sourcing uniform for six-year-old Aman. Jen also helped him bid for social housing and in September they moved into a two-bedroom council flat.

Micheal says: “Jen manage everything – for Universal Credit, for helping me write housing application, she helped me find a school. She’s brilliant.”

Micheal and Tigest are so happy to be together again and immensely proud of their little boy, who, having been brought up an Amharic speaker, is learning English fast at his new school. Micheal has undertaken some training in electrical manufacturing and after passing all his tests, he’s applying for jobs.

“If I get a job, I am happy. I help my family and can take care of my wife and son. I want to be independent.”

He says they are finally beginning to settle into their new life on Tyneside.

“We make friends here. It’s quiet, not too noisy. If I speak to someone, someone talks to me. That’s why I live here – it’s friendly, it’s good. The accent is difficult, but I try, I think I am an adopted Geordie!”

* Names of clients have been changed to protect anonymity.

If you would like to make a donation to our Raise the Roof campaign, please visit our Crowdfunder page here.