Essex woman who has housed asylum-seeking teens urges others to do the same

Michael Ghebreyohannes, from Eritrea, first moved into Lynne's home aged 16. Credit: ITV Anglia

An Essex woman who has housed seven asylum-seeking teenagers since 2014 is urging others to consider doing the same.

Lynne Thomas is a 'supported lodgings' provider, which means she helps 16 to 18-year-olds become independent by letting them live with her and giving them guidance.

Essex County Council believes it needs a further 20 providers like Lynne to deal with current demand.

When Michael Ghebreyohannes first moved into Lynne's home he was 16 and had spent two years travelling more than 3,000 miles from Eritrea in Africa, to Essex. 

Michael Ghebreyohannes Credit: ITV Anglia

Now aged 20, he moved out of Lynne's a year ago and lives independently, but he still calls her mum. 

Michael told ITV Anglia: "I didn't know how to speak English that time, but I am lucky to live with her. She gave me everything".

Since becoming a supported lodgings provider in 2014, seven of the eight young people Lynne has had live with her have been asylum seekers like Michael.

She has helped them overcome language barriers and enrol in college 

They have even taught one another in the kitchen. 

'Most of them don't speak English, they don't speak a word of English when they first come here", Lynne said.

Lynne Thomas Credit: ITV Anglia

"They've had traumatic lives and it's very, very hard to communicate with them. So you don't actually know the trauma they're going through. Slowly, very slowly they start talking a little bit of English or you use the language line and you start hearing their horror stories - and they are horror stories".

Lynne added that it has been important for her to be kind and patient with the teenagers.

"You've got a scared young man of 16 and by the time he's 21 he's a grown adult, independent and smiley, It's lovely", she said.

When her daughters moved out, Lynne considered fostering.

However, she realised providing 'supported lodgings' for teenagers fit better with her busy lifestyle.

"You can still go out and see your friends, you can still socialise, you can still go to the gym, you can still go to the cinema with your friends, you can still have a life", she explained.

"That's what I like about this, that's what I love about 16 plus - they are adults, young adults.' 

Essex County Council is appealing for more people like Lynne, believing it needs at least 20 more supported lodging providers to deal with current demand.

Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council said supported lodgings is offered to a range of people, from those who have grown up in foster care to unaccompanied asylum seekers.

"It's about caring and looking at what advice you can give somebody and really just replicating what many of us take for granted as we make that transition into adulthood, to have people there who can give you support, who can guide you, who you can turn to if you have a question

"It makes an incredible difference to their chances in life and the outcome".