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HELPText: connecting vulnerable people with the right organisations

By Manuela Rotstein, 14 Aug 2016

Adu*, 54, came to the UK as an asylum seeker with her husband, a British citizen. When she fled his violence – she reveals scars on her head and arms – she had nowhere to go and ended up alternating between sleeping on a friend’s floor and on the street. This remains the pattern of her life 11 years later. Reflecting on her precarious position, Adu settled on the following: “You find yourself in this situation and you want to overcome it. But what can you do?”

In the UK within just the past 3 months, at least 3,373 refugees and asylum seekers have been made destitute. Furthermore, the government has plans to remove support payments for asylum-seeking families, regardless of whether or not they can safely leave the UK, plunging even more into poverty.

The Destitute Asylum Seekers Drop-in is a not-for-profit organisation that provides support to destitute asylum seekers. The situation of clients of the Drop-in is desperate: they are intermittently homeless – both men and women – and spend time in and out of immigration detention centres. This small organisation has had remarkable success in refreshing asylum claims, preventing deportations and supporting people emotionally.

HELPText will provide destitute asylum seekers with free, secure, and confidential access to the services and support of the Drop-in entirely via SMS at critical points: when they are facing deportation, eviction or detention.

We are now being supported with an Outlandish Fellowship to create this product, which is launching in September.  Our mission goes beyond the Drop-in though: we hope to equip many grass roots organisations with our tool – HELPText – to open communication channels easily so that they can reach out to communities and individuals at risk, and to make help accessible to vulnerable people.

We are already working towards deploying HELPText with an organisation working with refugees and volunteers in Calais and Greece, and we have two other organisations in planning: one for asylum seekers, and the other for people that are on the autistic spectrum.

We’ll be reporting soon about our experience with the Drop-in. In the meantime, if you are part of an organisation that could benefit from the use of HELPText, please get in touch with us.

Send us an email to info@helptext.uk or text us on 07879 387 106, and we will get back to you as soon as possible

*Not her real name