As January comes to an end, it is difficult to believe that Christmas was just over a month ago. For many of us the long, cold, dark winter nights of the weeks ahead bring with them feelings of cosy comfort and warmth at home. Yet it is during this time of year, when the expectant celebration of Advent and festive giving are long forgotten, that the needs of our friends are often overlooked. Many of our friends continue to experience street homelessness. To them, the New Year does not necessarily bring peace and happiness, or a fresh new start. Our ‘At Home’ hosting scheme operates all year-round, matching refugee friends with volunteer hosts who offer a safe space for them to stay for 3 months at a time. One of our volunteer hosts, Miko, reflects on his first Christmas hosting, and his experiences over the last year:
“In December, we experienced our first Christmas as JRS hosts, having had three asylum-seeking guests staying with us in 2019. Our overriding impression was how easy it’s been: how naturally our guests have fit in, how within days, in all three cases, it was if they’d been with us for ever.
This is largely a cheat, of course. The JRS assesses the guests it places very thoroughly and professionally, and ensures that they are very likely to fit in to hosts’ homes and routines. There are many asylum seekers in the same position as our guests who, would not be suitable for the At Home scheme due to the impact of the trauma they have endured. While our guests have experienced trauma, they have demonstrated immense self-reliance and stoicism. Our first guest came to us six months’ pregnant, and never did we get a frustrated word from her (our last sight of her, however, was in Maternity, wreathed in smiles and holding her gorgeous daughter). We barely saw our second guest, who was also suffering from a debilitating foot infection. A delightful young man with whom communication was a joy, despite English not being his first language, He was out all day on a rota of charities and religious observance: we wish his feet had touched the ground.
Our current guest spent Christmas with us. It was very special. He has an amazing combination of charm, sophistication, world-wisdom and childish enthusiasm for simple jokes. He cooks superb and flavourful African food. He watches football non-stop and, courtesy of the charity Freedom from Torture, plays at Arsenal every Monday, rather well we gather. He has had an unspeakable four years, which he wears very lightly. He is a very considerate and conscientious housemate and the flat has never sparkled as now.
We look forward to the joy and warmth that hosting will bring us in 2020, and we know one thing for sure: this year everyone should be a JRS host!”
Inspired by Miko’s story as an ‘At Home’ volunteer?
Find out more about hosting a destitute asylum-seeker in the Greater London area