The Clothing Store is run in conjunction with the Asylum Seekers Support Fund and comes under the umbrella of Wakefield District City of Sanctuary. As such, the Clothing Store offers second-hand clothes, bedding, school uniforms, toys and small household items to local dispersed asylum seekers, new refugees and people connected to resettlement programmes. The Clothing Store also offers support to the growing number of asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds.
In addition, the Clothing Store offer a range of clothes to people passing through the Initial Accommodation Centre (IAC), Urban House. Urban House is one of five IACs outside of London. People who have newly claimed asylum, and have no funds to support themselves, are sent to one of the IACs on a no-choice basis. Urban House accommodates 300 people on a rolling system of approximately three weeks, and usually runs at full capacity. Families and single people, including pregnant women, arrive at Urban House on a daily basis. If 50 people are dispersed in the morning, by teatime they have been replaced by 50 people bussed up from Croydon.
People can arrive at Urban House with little or no luggage. The asylum contract for IACs does not provide clothing or cash support; while people are at the IAC, they do not receive benefits. Only when people are moved from the IAC to National Asylum Seekers Support (NASS) housing do they start to receive NASS benefits. Whilst in the IAC asylum seekers live in a virtually cashless society. However, the IAC contract does include all meals, washing facilities, toiletries, bedding and access to health checks and screening.
All the people that arrive at the IAC are traumatized – on their journey, amongst other things, they have lost all stability in their lives. The City of Sanctuary movement offers a welcome; the Clothing Store offers practical support. For people who do not have luggage we offer Emergency Packs, this can be followed by a Change of Clothes Pack and Support Items. We do this through a request and delivery system. The receptionists and the management at Urban House can see if people have no luggage and contact the Clothing Store. People at Urban House can ask at reception for clothing and we do our best to offer what we can. The Health team and the Health Visitor also ensure that people, especially children, have access to clothing.
The Emergency Packs is a set of new clothes. Each pack consists of underwear, socks, jogging pants, t-shirt and a hoodie or fleecy. For children under 5yrs the packs have extra underwear and t-shirts. Emergency packs are followed up with Change of Clothes Packs. All Change of Clothes Packs consist of new underwear, new socks, decent washed jogging pants, trousers or leggings, t-shirts and a jumper or warm top. Coats, hats, scarfs and gloves are generally offered during the winter months.
Pregnant women who pass through Urban House have not had the opportunity to prepare for the arrival of their child. Not having anything ready for your baby is extremely worrying and stressful. The Clothing Store tries to ensure that all pregnant women are given a ‘Welcome to the Word’ Pack – this pack is made up of new items and contains a cotton baby blanket, towel, baby vests, babygrows, a hand knitted baby layette and a handknitted baby blanket. When donations or funds allow we add a pram suit or baby coat. All the knitted items are knitted with love and given in friendship by Knitters of Sanctuary. Anyone can be a Knitter of Sanctuary, and throughout the year we welcome all sizes of knitted hats, mittens and toys.
Being pregnant, and often alone, in a foreign country with a different culture is unbelievable difficult. Being given a gift for your child demonstrates peoples’ acceptance and willingness to welcome you and your baby. The Maternity Stream of Sanctuary has more information on how people can help pregnant women.
Women over seven months pregnant have the option to stay at the IAC until their child is born. For these mothers we also offer support baby clothes as well as the Welcome to the World pack. When we can we offer decent second-hand prams. Having something new for your baby is a pleasure we take for granted.
Regardless of circumstances children grow, clothes and shoes wear out. For all people in the first part of the asylum process, if you have no funds you cannot buy underwear, clothes or shoes. As a welcome to Wakefield the Clothing Store offers a range of packs and tries to find items which people need or request. On principle all underwear and socks are new for all ages. Offering a set of new clothes gives people dignity and is hugely beneficial to people’s morale. The new clothes are basic and the secondhand clothes are usually classic rather than stylish, but they are clean and fresh. All the clothes, new or pre-loved, are donated. Some are donated through organizations: others are gifts from individuals. Other Cities of Sanctuary, such as Ripon and York, collect and deliver donations to the Clothing Store on a regular basis. All donations and gifts are really appreciated.
The Clothing Store grew out of necessity. As the City of Sanctuary, we have a good relationship with the IAC and the Clothing Store can be called upon to offer not only clothes but also toys for the play room, books for the library, presents for festivals, walking sticks for elderly residents and buggies for struggling parents.
The Clothing Store enables local people to give practical gifts of welcome to people newly arrived in the area. Whether people are at the IAC or in the community, the Clothing Store does its best to create a good neighbour response and offer a welcome to people who, through circumstances beyond their control, have ended up in Wakefield and the surrounding area.
Thank you and good wishes, Linda