Page last updated at 07:06 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

South Asian homelessness threat

By Sanjiv Buttoo
BBC Asian Network

Shelter multilingual project coordinator Tracy Guy (left) and support worker Shalina Uddin
Shelter worker Tracy Guy, left, has seen an increase in homeless Asians

There has been a marked increase in the number of South Asians in danger of becoming homeless, charities have said.

Samina fled her family home two years ago.

She says she was beaten by her father and suspected she was about to be forced into an arranged marriage.

"I had suffered enough," she told BBC Asian Network. "I had already been kicked out for a few days and then one night I thought 'I can't take this anymore and it's time for me to get out'.

"When I left it was the scariest time for me. I did not know where I was going and, more importantly, where I would be staying.

As many Asian people own their own homes - they are getting into trouble because of the current credit crunch
Shelter multilingual project coordinator Tracy Guy

"I went to the police for help and they found me accommodation in a women's hostel."

Samina is just one of a growing number of Asian people who are leaving home and getting help from homeless charities.

Those charities include Shelter which has a project in the North-East which is helping young families before they are made homeless and 65% of those coming to them are from an Asian background.

Other homeless groups, in particular, those in West Yorkshire are also working with increasing numbers of Asian clients.

According to Shelter, last year the largest number of people the organisation was helping from the ethnic minority communities were Asian.

Asians have also now become the fastest growing group they are working with.

'Language problems'

Shelter has a multilingual project catering for minority communities and last year more than 60% of the people who came for help were Asian.

The charity is updating the way it collects data but says that during 2009 the numbers of Asian people asking for help increased by 10% for the Bangladeshi community, 75% for the Pakistani community and 155% for the Indian community.

Living on the streets is not a safe place and I was very scared wondering what was going to happen to me
Ali

Shelter's multilingual project coordinator Tracy Guy said: "We get lots of people who have language problems and we think - as many Asian people own their own homes - they are getting into trouble because of the current credit crunch.

"They are coming to us as a last resort and we need to conduct some detailed analysis into this."

One of the project's support workers, Shalina Uddin, believes that, even though Shelter is getting more Asian clients desperate for help, many others do not ask for help because of cultural reasons.

"Asian people live in close communities and do not want anyone else knowing their business," explained Ms Uddin.

"They may be embarrassed and do not want to be subjected to gossip, which is why we think others may not be coming forward."

'Nowhere to turn'

Ali, 17, did not get on with his father. He says he was thrown out of home before spending two years living with friends and then on his own.

"Living on the streets is not a safe place and I was very scared wondering what was going to happen to me," he said.

"I had nowhere to turn to but I managed to earn some money and find a cheap place to live. I had no support or help.

"Eventually, I found a place and I now live in my own flat. I am now back in school and my life is back on track.

"If I could say one thing to someone who is homeless it would be to get help even if that means going to the police. It's a start and they will help you find somewhere safe."

The names of those made homeless mentioned above have been changed to protect their identity.

You can hear more at 1230 and 1800 GMT on 24 February on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.



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