Over 100 Ukrainian refugees are being housed in two West Lothian hotels as a result of a lack of suitable housing options.
There are currently 73 refugees staying at the Mercure hotel in Livingston with a further 29 at the Houston House hotel at Uphall.
As the first six months of the hosting programmes comes to a close there is an uncertainty over the future as the war continues and local authorities across Scotland face similar pressures in providing housing for those displaced by the Russian invasion.
West Lothian Council has been working with local charities co-ordinated by the Voluntary Sector Gateway (VSG) to provide help to refugees and assistance with the resettlement programme.
Alison White, director of the West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership told a meeting organised by the VSG. “At the Mercure the number fluctuates but remains around 73. The challenge for us is that we have eight families who require three bedroom accommodation, and we also have 10 single males. And we don’t have any host accommodation available.”
Mrs White said there had been a high number of refusals for hosting in part because the areas offered were too remote with poor transport links.
“People want their own tenancy, as well,” she added.
Council staff visit the hotels a couple of days a week to provide support, working alongside two Scottish Government staff.
Refugees have access to council services including meeting with housing staff, the Advice Shop to help with benefits, adult education and the Access2 employment teams.
“It is proving challenging for us,” said Mrs White.
She also outlined the work being done with host families. Information sheets have been drawn up for both hosts and for refugees offering advice. The initial six month hosting period is coming to an end. While there is nothing to stop the hosts continuing in the role there are uncertainties on both sides.
There are currently 31 West Lothian hosts who are part of the UK wide scheme, and a further 17 on the Scottish Government’s SuperSponsor scheme, which is currently on suspension to allow figures to stabilise as local authorities try to find more permanent accommodation for refugees.
Given the often difficult circumstances, West Lothian has only seen nine relationship breakdowns in placements across both schemes, where the council had to step in to find alternative accommodation.
Aa a new part of the process hosts will be contacted within four months to see if they wish to continue. This is to give the council enough notice to arrange alternative accommodation and prevent refugees from registering as homeless.
The council continues to assess applications to host refugees and carry out property and personal checking.
Alan McCloskey who heads the West Lothian’s VSG gave an update on the wider input of the Third Sector Interface (TSI) organisations across Scotland.
Bids led by the Edinburgh equivalent to the VSG to lobby the Scottish Government for a new short term £2 million fund to help the third sector weather the problems and pressures of providing aid to the refugees have been rejected by Holyrood following meetings.
That has not been helped by the Holyrood decision to give a £5 million grant to the Palladium organisation, an American based consultancy, to deliver a “six-month crisis support programme” to manage support for those arriving in Scotland.
Mr McClosey said the language between the TSI’s and Holyrood had been characterised as “had it been a boxing ring some punches would have been thrown.”