For our friends seeking asylum, one of the most powerful forms of social justice in action takes place at home, through refugee hosting schemes pairing volunteer hosts with refugees in desperate need of accommodation.
Through the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS UK)’s hosting scheme, ‘At Home’, refugees are welcomed in individual households, parishes, or religious communities who are able and willing to offer accommodation for a mutually agreed period, appropriate to host and guest. By opening their homes to a stranger, our volunteer hosts respond to the call for hospitality.
In his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis renews his invitation to us all to take concrete steps to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate refugees and migrants seeking sanctuary on our shores: “The arrival of those who are different, coming from other ways of life and cultures, can be a gift” (Fratelli Tutti, 133). This gift is of a ‘culture of encounter’, through which host communities and new arrivals can exchange the gifts of one another’s culture and enrich all those involved.
One of our hosts, Nora, discussed her inspiration for getting involved with hosting:
“I had quite a big house for just myself, with spare rooms—for just me, you know? So, I couldn’t say no. The Lord was looking down on me, saying ‘what about those spare rooms?’ I am pleased I did it.”
“I thought that it could have been me, you know? I could have been in that position. It is rewarding even though it’s just day-to-day living. But, nevertheless, at the end of the day, for her, [my guest], it is something big.”
Volunteers are the driving force of our ‘At Home’ hosting scheme. They appreciate that behind the label ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum seeker’ is a person of dignity – a person with a story, hopes, dreams and fears, who like all of us, is seeking to get on with their life.
This mutual, sustained encounter between refugee and host puts principles of social justice into practice. It is an act of charity which upholds dignity, shows solidarity with the vulnerable, and increases avenues of participation for those who need it most.
One refugee guest, who has been hosted twice through JRS UK’s hosting scheme, told us:
“From hosting, I learnt something very important in my life, psychologically, is that love can be given by anyone. Before that, I was always thinking that it was only my parents, and family, and best friends who can give me that love, but later on, I realised that it can be given by anyone.”
At present our hosting scheme is in urgent need of more hosts. In an increasingly hostile environment, where resources are dwindling for charities and legal-aid providers, our refugee friends are left waiting in limbo for even longer – reliant on charities for accommodation. We are also anticipating need increasing as backlogs of asylum-claims are poorly dealt with, leaving more people destitute.
The security of a home to return to amid debilitating uncertainty allows JRS’s refugee friends to live with dignity – not constantly in a state of worry about where to sleep or find food and soap. These seemingly basic concerns can be all-consuming and prevent our refugee friends from thinking strategically about important decisions ahead.
Please consider whether you would be willing to give a refugee friend a chance to live in dignity and to learn from each other in a hosting placement.
If you live in the London area and would like to become a refugee host with JRS or want to know a bit more about the ‘At Home’ scheme before applying, please get in touch with Amy-Leigh at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7488 7310
Find out more about the scheme: www.jrsuk.net/at-home-hosting-scheme/
Amy-Leigh Hatton, JRS UK’s Accommodation Officer
Want to learn more? Join us at Farm Street Church on Tuesday 30th May, 7pm, to learn more about the At Home hosting scheme.