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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Eastern European hostel opens in London

July 10 2009
The Olallo Project can sleep 30+ A10 rough sleepers
A new hostel has opened in London specifically targeting Eastern Europeans - the first centre of its kind in the UK.

The Olallo Project in Euston opened last December with 12 beds. Now the centre has space for more than 30 rough sleepers in eight apartments with self-contained kitchens, and is hoping to continue to grow.

The project has been denied government funding because it targets migrants from the EU Accession States, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, who have no access to the British benefit system until they have worked and paid taxes for two years. All of its £600,000 annual funding comes from the church and private donations. As well as accommodation, there is a training centre offering employment programmes and training workshops. Migrants are helped to improve their English and use computers.

Development manager David Barratt was keen to point out that this was short-term, targeted support. "We are not supporting people who choose to work on a casual, untaxed or illegal basis, and our entire focus is on helping to prepare those who are capable of employment and then helping them to obtain it," he said. "For those who cannot work due to a lack of skills, motivation or other support issues, we are offering reconnection services back to the home country." It is part-funded by the Poor Servants of the Mother of God and the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God, and also by The Passage, another church-run organisation, which was one of the first to raise the alarm on the high number of A10 migrants using London's hostel system.

The problems facing Eastern Europeans have polarised under the recession, as sterling falls in value and jobs dry up. Mr Barrett added that minority groups can often experience prejudice when times are hard. "I know from experience that any new group to the streets - especially when they arrive in relatively large numbers and displace existing groups - tends to have a knock-on effect," he said. "Equally, with the economy as a whole in dire trouble, this is bound to affect the way our clients are being viewed."

Last month, Homeless Link figures showed 25 per cent of homeless people in London are Eastern Europeans.