Naomi Turner recently joined JRS UK as our Communities of Hospitality Co-ordinator. Her role is to co-ordinate our At Home hosting scheme, supporting both host and guest throughout the placements. Eight weeks into the role, Naomi shares with us some of the challenges, joys and the overwhelming need for hosting.
Our recent report ‘Out in the Cold’ unearthed some troubling statistics about the harsh realities for those asylum seekers JRS UK accompanies: sixty-two percent of our refugee friends had been street homeless in the last year and thirty-six percent do not feel physically safe in their accommodation. This clearly shows an urgent need for safe and secure accommodation for our refugee friends. This lack of a consistent and safe home must have an awful toil on mental and physical health.
Although the asylum process can be exhausting and often very bleak, in my role I do see positive moments for our refugee friends – in the difference that being hosted can make in the lives of the guest, and indeed of the host.
Many of our hosts are religious communities – although we welcome applications from any kind of home setup – and I heard a very touching story recently from a community of Sisters who have hosted a number of our refugee friends over the past year. They described taking their guest to the seaside for the day, and getting fish and chips, taking a train on the pier, and sitting on the beach with crowds of people. Their guest appeared to love every minute, and took photos of the sea on her phone to show to friends. The most touching part of the story for me is this:
“a final must for us is always a visit to Rossi’s ice-cream parlour. When we arrived there our guest bought the ice creams, having first sorted our orders. It was a very gracious gesture and very competently handled. We all ended by having spent a very lovely day by the sea!”
As destitute asylum seekers, with no support from the state, the friends we work with are completely dependent on charities, and maybe friends, for any money. This story is thus so touching because this guest is sharing the very little money that she has with her hosts. It is very hard always being on the receiving end of charity, and you can understand her want to say thank you in a small way.
This shows what a wonderful experience hosting can be for the host, as well as the guest. However, this is not to say that there may not be testing times. Going through the asylum-seeking process can be awfully demanding on an individual’s spirit, and there may be days when your guest is frustrated, stressed and unhappy. However, I have personally seen the huge difference having somewhere safe and warm to sleep can have on an individual. One of the guests who recently started being hosted looked literally years younger, without the stress of where he was going to sleep that night, in comparison to when I saw him prior to hosting. Without decent sleep, it is near impossible for someone to have the energy to keep fighting their asylum case.
We currently have a very small list of hosts, and a desperate need for stable, secure and safe accommodation for our refugee friends. If you’ve been inspired by Naomi’s words and you have a spare room – perhaps you could consider hosting a destitute asylum seeker?
Read more about the scheme on the At Home webpages or contact Naomi directly to have a chat about the scheme: 02074887313 / firstname.lastname@example.org