A NEW programme aimed at ensuring refugees don't end up homeless has been launched in Carlisle by the Penrith and Eden Refugee Network (PERN).

The Rent a Room to a Refugee scheme seeks to connect local homeowners willing to rent out their spare room, with refugees in need of a place to live - at a time when people from Carlisle hotels are being granted refugee status. 

It hopes to tackle the problem of newly-established refugees becoming street homeless after their official asylum support ends, in which people have 28 days to vacate their asylum accommodation after their status ends and find alternative living arrangements.

Homeowners in and around Carlisle with a spare room can sign up to be paired with a refugee.

The scheme guarantees landlords a tax-free rental income (up to £7,500 a year) while providing them the satisfaction of helping someone build a life in the area. 

Sarah Wilson, director of PERN, said: "Everyone needs a place to belong and we all need a home to live in.

"Carlisle has been very welcoming to people seeking asylum over the last 18 months.

"Now people are being granted refugee status and need to find a job and a place to live.

"There are plenty of jobs in Carlisle suited to new refugees who are still working at improving their language skills but new refugees can't stay here to fill job vacancies unless they have a room to rent.

"The scheme is just like other landlord-to-lodger arrangements in your own home, you provide a room, you get extra tax free income and someone gets a home," she said. 

Sarah highlighted that Penrith & Eden Refugee Network oversees the checks for landlords and lodgers and facilitates introductions.

 "It's a great feeling helping someone get started with a new life in the UK after they've escaped war and persecution and had such a long time living in uncertain limbo whilst they waited for their asylum claim to be heard. 

"Welcoming refugees has a long tradition in the UK and Cumbria and the PERN Rent a Room to a New Refugee is a practical way to be part of this," she said.

Further details of PERN Rent a Room to a New Refugee are on www.pern.org.uk  or by emailing hello@pern.org.uk