How to match with and host a Ukraine refugee
This post is absolutely off-topic and I apologize for that. I have been watching the war unfold since it began and I have absolutely amazed seeing other small businesses use their goodwill and current online platforms and communities to get aid to those in Ukraine. Some particular examples that stand out are PATROL who have/plan to drive out numerous vehicles to Poland bringing with them medics and medical supplies and a local business to us Cavalry Transport who were quick to get a list of essential items out and offered to collect and drive it to Poland. I am happy to say the aid arrived and the team at Cavalry Transport is back home safely now.
Since the UK announced the “Homes for Ukraine” initiative I’ve been really interested in seeing how it works and how they plan to match rooms with refugees. It seems like at this stage both the host and the refugee need to know each other, however briefly, because they will need to name each other on their applications. You can learn more about how Homes for Ukraine works on the government website here. What I wanted to talk about, which seems hard to find online, is how to actually match with or find people who need a room or home in the UK. Unfortunately, all of the news articles that are making it to the top of Google are spreading the same regurgitated information on what the scheme is and how to register your interest, hopefully, this post will help clarify the actual process and places where you can find someone who needs you.
All of the places I mention here I’ve found through research online (mostly Facebook) and speaking with wonderful men and women who have already gone to the trouble of finding these places and contacting them themselves and getting a result.
Homes for Ukraine
The UK government Homes for Ukraine scheme is the first place to start. At this time you can only register your interest. This service is for those who are not related to the Ukrainian they want to bring to the UK. If you have a relative in the UK you should first see if you can use the Ukraine Family Scheme. This is the website where you can register your application to bring a refugee or refugee family to the United Kingdom from Ukraine. The application process for this opens on March 18th. The Homes for Ukraine website suggests that you use charities, faith groups, or community organizations to find your match. If you still have no match but are prepared to help, you should still register your interest because it looks like they plan to open up some sort of way for hosts to find refugees in the near future.
The ‘register your interest‘ form is quick and easy to fill out at only 12 questions long. Once you have submitted your responses you’ll get a unique ID that you can use if you need to contact Homes for Ukraine about your application. I’m sure I read somewhere that once you have registered your interest you will also get access to some form of support pack – but I cannot find reference to that right now.
Applying via Homes for Ukraine is a necessity. You must apply to host someone via Homes for Ukraine for them to be able to come to the UK with a visa based on your sponsorship. Advice about the scheme can be found in the FAQ.
Home for Ukraine has now put up a website claiming that this is where they’ll be officially matching Ukrainians with hosts. The website is live but not actually in use just now. You’ll need to scroll down the page to sign up as a host, the top section is for the refugees to sign up. It isn’t working right now and the link to sign up actually just takes you back to the above website to register your interest.
***This is the official government website for matching hosts with fleeing Ukrainians. This is likely to be the only website anyone official in the UK will alert you to but it is just as safe and practical to use any of the other sources below. Just be careful, use common sense and don’t send money to anyone you haven’t spoken to at least by video call to prove their identity.
Websites to find a Ukraine refugee match
So I will likely be updating the list of websites as the days pass because more and more people are trying to help. One of my favourite stories is about the two Harvard students who created a matching website for refugees and hosts. Their website is called Ukraine Takes Shelter and they described it as a stripped-down version of Airbnb.
Slava Ukraini (Ukrainia.space)
Slava Ukraini is offering refugees support in many ways: accommodation, food, medical help, and psychological help.
The website shows postings from hosts and postings from those in need of help. The posts are automatically displayed in multiple European languages to help smooth the process of communications between host and refugee.
It is fairly simple to make a host post and you can detail the type of help you are offering.
Ukraine Takes Shelter
I am doing my best to work through each of the websites I find, working out which ones I find easy to use and which ones are more difficult. Ukraine Takes Shelter is fairly simple in design, exactly what is needed right now. The front page asks you to enter your location.
It is only after this search that you’ll realize the website assumes you are the Ukraine refugee in need of a host. As a refugee, this website would be a really good source though. The host list is simple and provides quite a bit of relevant information upfront.
You can filter by the number of refugees and whether you need to be able to bring your pet. In the Add filters dropdown, you can further specify your needs by urgency (e.g. you need urgent medical help or are late in your pregnancy), duration, languages spoken by the host, and more. In the top right of the website, you can apply to become a host.
Room for Refugees
There is a host application form and I was happy to see that they also added a form for Ukrainians who want to be accommodated (it sounds like this is for those wanting to come to the UK, but the wording is ambiguous). You can also donate or apply to volunteer with them.
Refugees At Home
Refugees At Home is a UK charity. Their website says they have helped facilitate 200,062 nights of safety for refugees, impressive! Both the host can apply and the refugee can apply to the website to start the search for a match. I like that you can apply on behalf of the person in need because realistically a lot of people flee war with nothing, no access to the internet to do this themselves. I liked that they have a bunch of resources available for the host too.
Refuge Booking looks like Gumtree and Booking.com had a baby. There is a search bar where you can state the location you want to go and you can add in dates too. Obviously, this is from the refugee point of view.
I wasn’t entirely sure if a host could sign up somewhere, although clearly, they’d need to to get their listing on there? Anyway, it literally is the sign-up button you use whether you are a host or a refugee. There will be a pop-up like the one below and you can see on it that you can select which type of account you’d like.
The selection sentence describes it as ‘rent’ your property but surely they mean ‘advertise’ or ‘offer’. I haven’t signed up to this website but I’d be happy to amend the article if anyone who has signed up is able to comment and let me know.
Opora is working with hosts and refugees to create matches. Their website seems to suggest that they are using their networks within Ukraine and the UK to facilitate these matches. I’m not sure if I am understanding that correctly but if so it sounds like there could be slight delays in communication as they (Opora) communicate with groups in both countries. Their overall initiative is really good and they plan to help support Ukrainians financially and long-term to help them create a future in the place they seek refuge.
Both the host and the refuge can apply to the sponsorship scheme, just look out on the webpage for the correct link as they are both quite close together. They have a Facebook and an Instagram, which is something I haven’t actually looked for on the other websites but it was very easy to spot on Opora. From their most recent post, it looks like a lot of people already have discovered Opera!
UPDATE: Opora have since been promoting this link on Facebook to log in/sign up to their service. It is all automated now and hosts and Ukrainians are able to match automatically instead of manually which was the case before.
Shelter for UA
Shelter for UA website looks a little old and a bit glitchy, but I haven’t actually used it properly. The map being so zoomed out put me off.
When I was trying to screenshot the website to add it in here, I ended up majorly zooming in on Alaska, so maybe the map issue is on my end. I think the map idea is really good because you could potentially be searching close to where you are now (if you are a refugee). When you see an area you might like you can click the marker on the map and it opens up an information page to the left of the map.
The ‘become a host‘ form is actually a Google form, which means there is a person on the other end of the form managing them. That must be hectic. I would expect to be waiting a while to hear back about your application (this might not be the case but it sounds like a person then has to input the data from the form onto the website manually).
Shelter4Ukraine is a pretty simple website. I liked that the application buttons are in Ukrainian and English – useful.
When you click I have Shelter to offer you are taken to a random page that doesn’t seem to matter. I have no idea what a secret key is or what it exists for. What you are looking for is the camouflaged link to register as a new host. Once you click on this you fill in an initial form which apparently then triggers the system to email you a secret key. It seems that you then log in with that key and update your offer to put it live on the website. If I am wrong do let me know!
AirBnb is well-known and used around the world. Not only did they remove any fees for Ukrainian hosts so that lovely people around the world could book and cancel, or book and no-show different accommodation throughout Ukraine (and therefore sending money directly to the banks of Ukrainians who need it) they have committed to helping Ukrainian refugees temporary housing. This is not exactly what you want if you are doing the Homes for Ukraine scheme but it can certainly help. It is also an opportunity to meet refugees in need.
They are also offering a way for people to donate money toward the costs of temporary housing for refugees. I think this is a wonderful idea because so many people want to help but just do not have an extra room to offer.
I can help host
I can help host will immediately ask to view your location. This is because their system works from a map.
You can apply to become a host using the blue and yellow ‘I can help’ button in the top left of the website. It looks like this:
Once you click it a pop-up will appear on the screen. There are a number of questions to fill in to apply to be a host, the most interesting one being “I guarantee that I am not a sex offender *” where you are expected to tick a box to confirm. I think it is meant to be funny but I am not sure it is a good situation to use that kind of humour. The form also states that any information you share on the form will be published on the website and anyone will be able to find it. This includes your country, city, postcode and name.
UAPOMOC will likely load on your screen in Polish, don’t worry – in the top right of the screen you can see a Polish flag, click on it and you can change it to the UK flag and the website will then be in English. The website calls their advertisements or postings ‘notices’.
You can post or view notices relating to so many different topics, but if you have a bedroom to spare then you’ll want to go to the ‘shelter’ notices. You’ll then be asked if you are offering shelter or seeking shelter and from there you’ll be able to make your post by clicking ‘add notice’. You can view notices too, which is a great tool for hosts as often it is only possible to view postings from the refugee side of the website.
Right now they have a lot more offers of help than people seeking it but do not let that put you off. Not everyone’s offer is suited to everyone seeking. Once you click to view notices you can look through postings by refugees without even logging in. You can also get their contact information right away to start your communication. Postings are shown in three languages.
EU4UA is for hosts and refugees across the whole of Europe. What I mean is, the hosts’ location does not matter as long as it is in Europe. The Ukrainian refugee can then find hosts in the location they desire.
I love that the buttons to select which role you play in the match are the colours of the Ukraine flag. I haven’t particularly searched for the socials of these charities but I found on the EU4UA front page the links for their Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. I think it is always a good sign when a company is active on social media, it gives confidence in their work and that you are choosing an active company to work with. You can see from their posts that they are there on the ground with the refugees. Their website also has a reel of photos on it.
UA SOS has an impressive list of partners. A lot of them I think are Polish names and I am not sure exactly what the companies do. What I do know is there are a lot of refugees in Poland and having Polish companies on side can only be a good thing.
If you know of any non-government organizations, foundations, or associations, which can help to organize stays for them then please email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help for refugees (ukrainesupport.net)
Help for refugees (ukrainesupport.net) is probably going to load in Polish. You can change the language in the top right of the screen using the flag which is a drop-down menu. There are six languages available: English, Polish, Ukrainian, German, French and Spanish.
I think this website is focused on Poland, but it may help somebody out there. I think it is useful to include it because they offer legal assistance and help with transport too.
Grupazasoby is (according to Google translate) in Bulgarian and means Group of Tools. The white button with ‘Udostepniam nocleg’ is ‘I provide accommodation’ and the yellow button with ‘Szukam noclegu’ means ‘I am looking for accommodation. This one is useful if you speak Bulgarian or Ukrainian and have something to offer in Bulgaria.
Just Open Arms
Just Open Arms are a European company who literally connect those with open arms with Ukrainian refugees fleeing war. At the very top of the page there are three buttons. To host you want to use the dark blue and green button ‘become a host‘. The sign up for is very basic, besides your email and password you only need to say that you’re able to host and list any languages you speak.
Unterkunft is mostly for accommodation in Germany, but the front page does suggest that it is not only German hosts who are using this site to offer somewhere to stay. When you follow through to sign up you are choose from a dropdown menu for your country and there are loads there you can choose from, including the UK.
Shelter Ukraine are another new website wonderfully pulled together in the last few days to help hosts match with Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.
The website is so sleek and simple, exactly what we need. I think so far a lot of refugees are becoming confused as to how to actually find people and some of the websites they’ve found too difficult to use.
When you follow through to sign up you’ll need to click on the text that says ‘enter details‘ rather than the button/image that says ‘I have shelter’.
Ukraine Support Facebook groups
I’ve started to notice more and more Facebook groups popping up in support of Ukraine. Some are general, but there are more specific groups you can access where local people or charities are posting. For example, Apex Forestry is based in the Scottish Borders, we live and work (office) out of the same address. So initially I’d be inclined to join groups such as Support Ukraine UK Appeal and Scotland 🏴 for Ukraine 🇺🇦 but don’t be afraid to search in the Facebook bar for more local groups. The best way to find them would be using phrases such as “Support Ukraine Scottish Borders” or “Support Ukraine Edinburgh”.
Down the left of the screen is the search results. You can click on groups to make sure you are finding groups that are joinable. This is most likely to be where information regarding sensitive topics is shared because groups can hide posts and information from anyone outside of it.
You can see that some of the groups I mentioned above are showing here, the search will show you anything related to your search and I am going to assume that because I already joined these groups they are making the top of the list.
How to use Ukraine Support Facebook Groups to help
You can simply sit and watch to see what comes up, but if you are desperate to get your name out there you could make a post about yourself and what you have to offer. I saw a really lovely one in one of the Scotland groups, I will share it below but try my best to blot out identifying information.
The hosts also included a Ukrainian translation and a picture of themselves which I thought was amazing. I love how they describe their home, just as you would if you were renting the room out on AirBnB or similar. You’ll also find useful tips and links in the comment sections of posts like this where the host is searching for someone. Usually, these will have been tried and tested by someone which makes them pretty valuable sources.
Dedicated host a refugee Facebook groups
There are some groups dedicated to matching Ukrainian refugees with a host. These can be harder to find especially if they have been set up from the Ukraine side. This is simply because of the language barrier. The same is true in all of the neighbouring countries where Ukrainians are fleeing to. The right people/charities are involved in setting up the groups to get people to safety but if their main language is from the place where they are now then we might just simply not understand what the group is intended for. I think that watching in Facebook comment sections for these kinds of groups is a really good idea because the people running them are on the ground with the refugees right now. They can feed back messages and information between the host and the refugee (especially important for anyone travelling without a phone or unable to use their phone for whatever reason).
One such group (I believe) is Pomoc dla Ukrainy🇺🇦 Допомога Україні: mieszkanie oraz inna pomoc obywatel. A quick Google translation shows that the group is for “Help for Ukraine🇺🇦 Допомога Україні: housing and other help for a citizen”. Google translate is notoriously bad for its translations so do not take their interpretations are 100% legitimate.
I used Facebook search bar to look for the term “host a Ukraine refugee” and found loads of groups for finding the right Ukraine refugee match.
More Facebook groups for matching with and hosting Ukraine refugees
Facebook public posts
Another quick note about Facebook is it is a rabbit hole for information. You can use the search bar to look for posts that contain the search terms.
You then want to select the ‘posts’ filter on the left side of the screen. Then the posts on the right will appear. You will be able to see any public posts from businesses, charities, individuals and from public groups that are related to your search. This is a good way to find links to new groups or websites but also personal posts from people seeking refuge.
I really hope this helps, and I am sure I will find more useful places to find you your match from Ukraine. You can also share this article about finding a remote job so it can help Ukraine refugees.
The cover image from this post was free to download and use from Pexels and the photo is by Mathias P.R. Reding. (Free to use as of 15th March 2022)