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Westminster spends £100,000 on helping homeless immigrants return home

Hammersmith & Fulham allocates another £50,000

The dream not always comes true.

Thousands of immigrants from Eastern and Central European countries, namely Poland in and Romania, flooded the UK after accession in the EU in 2004 and 2007. They invested the little money they had to live the dream that their new European status apparently granted them: they came to find a job, put together a future, provide for their family back home. Many didn’t make it. And the situation has got worse with the economic downturn, which has left increasing numbers in need of help.

2,500 of them went homeless on London’s streets. They don’t have a choice: the money to go back home and find at least the comfort of their own culture and values just isn’t there.

In an effort to give relief to life on the streets, the government has recently set up a pilot scheme, using the Thames Reach charity, providing food, clothing and a one-way bus and air ticket to thousands of people, mainly Polish, who have no access to benefits in this country.

The organisation also plans to fly in foreign workers to meet its homeless clients and ensure that they have access to welfare services when they return home.

Last year Westminster received £100,000 from the Department of Communities and Local Government to run its scheme, with about 600 people returned home since 2005.

Hammersmith & Fulham council has been allocated £50,000 for the 2008/9 and 2009/10 financial years.Charities said that large numbers of eastern Europeans had become homeless because of language difficulties, lack of benefits and limited assistance from their embassies and consulates.

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of Thames Reach, said: "They are often better off back home. We will encourage that and help them to reconnect."

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homelessness Link, said: "If people are unlucky, or some are duped, or they become ill, they can end up with nothing and there’s very little out there that will help them. We end up with people with no food or shelter."

by Federica Gaida 

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