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Ukrainians need long-term housing, families say

A council is looking into ways to help Ukrainian refugees find long-term housing after concerns they could be uprooted once their sponsorship ends.

Graham Ellis sponsors a family-of-four in Melksham and said moving settled families to other parts of the country with available housing was problematic.

Homes for Ukraine sponsors can house guests for a minimum of six months.

Wiltshire Council leader Richard Clewer said the council would "always attempt to keep individuals in the same area".

Mr Ellis, 68, and his wife Lisa, 67, have been housing 27-year old Volodymyr Todorov alongside his mother, younger brother and sister.

They said as the war continued more housing was needed as they witnessed Ukrainians being severed from the communities they had built in Wiltshire and being moved to other towns and cities where housing was available.

Mr Ellis said: "We know of people in this area who have moved on - going to Bristol, Liverpool."

He said while the guests had "never even heard of Melksham, even Wiltshire when they first moved here", moving them from place where they had "settled" into the community and built friendships was becoming an issue.

Mr Clewer said the council was looking into long-term solutions to the Ukrainian-housing challenges and wanted to keep families in the same area to avoid disruption to education and community links.

He also said it was considering using funding from Stone Circle, a subsidiary of the council set up to provide affordable housing across the county, "to acquire housing to re-home our Ukrainian residents going forward".

Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, Ukrainian guests with a sponsor are able to apply for a visa to stay in the UK for up to three years, however, sponsorship placements can end after a minimum of six months.

Thank you payments for hosts have been extended from 12 months to two years, so guests who might not yet be ready to move into independent accommodation can stay with their sponsors for longer, if the sponsors are willing to extend their arrangements.

According to Wiltshire Council there are currently 458 sponsors matched with 966 Ukrainian guests in the county.

Mr Todorov, who is originally from Odessa city and has been living with the Ellis family since May, told BBC Radio Wiltshire: "Without them we won't have been able to cope.

"I thank God for meeting such wonderful family."

Mrs Ellis said while they did not know what they were getting themselves into when they first signed up to host, the situation had quickly "become so natural" to them.

"We jumped in with both feet really blinded - not knowing what we were going to be involved with but it's worked out beautifully and we've become a family," she added.

Mr and Mrs Ellis said once it was safe and everybody had returned, they hoped to visit the family at their home in Odessa.

For now, the Ellises said they were "grateful" to have "such a wonderful family" living with them.

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