Catholics living in and around London have been urged to host asylum seekers and refugees in their homes to prevent them from sleeping on the streets.
JRS UK is appealing for 10 new volunteers in London, who could offer a spare room for three months or more, to sign up and join the JRS At Home hosting scheme.
Naomi Turner, who coordinates the At Home scheme said:
“Asylum seekers who are unable to receive Home Office accommodation or government support live in and out of crisis, sofa-surfing or staying in precarious living situations. They are made completely destitute, often finding themselves street homeless for extended periods of time. The effects of social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic have only exacerbated these already desperate circumstances.
“JRS’s mission to accompany and serve destitute asylum seekers includes extending a warm welcome and showing hospitality through our short-term hosting placements. We also work closely with our internal legal project, external solicitors and other refugee charities to find longer-term solutions for this marginalised and destitute population.
“By hosting an asylum seeker supported by JRS UK, you are providing a lifeline of support to someone who has already been through a great deal of trauma.”
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS UK) is at work in over 50 countries around the world and the shared mission across all of the JRS is to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. Accompaniment is very much the foundation on which the rest of our work stands on and it is the driving force for all that we do. Advocating on behalf of refugees and our service to them, is seen as a way of accompanying our refugee friends through their difficult journeys.
The JRS mission is built on our faith in God who is present in human history, even in its most tragic moments. We are inspired by this faith and by core values that inform all the work we do.
There is currently a great need for hosting destitute asylum seekers supported by JRS UK.
Our report on homelessness ‘Out in the Cold’, published in 2018, was based on surveys which were conducted at our day centre. It showed that:
- Almost half, 47%, of refugees who come to our service do not have a regular place to sleep
- Almost two thirds, 62% of refugees had been street homeless in the last year
- Very sadly it showed that 42% of the refugees interviewed do not feel comfortable around the people they stay with.
Positively, everyone who had been hosted through JRS felt safe.
These statistics demonstrate the urgent need we see for safe, welcoming hosting placements for our refugee friends.
The At Home hosting scheme at JRS is unique in its close-knit, community-focused nature. The process for taking on guests is conscientious and thorough. Usually, a refugee friend in need who is registered at our day centre, and is known to JRS staff and volunteers, is approached and the scheme is discussed in detail with them. We only refer people that are known to us and whom we have established some trust with, who have been coming to us for some time, and we do not refer through external agencies. We also take great care in matching a refugee guest to hosts who would be a willing and suitable fit.
Speaking about a recent placement with a host couple, a refugee friend of JRS said:
“The comfort was present with a good and large bedroom. All was for my peace of mind. Their children gave all the respect and the sympathy. We all were really close to each other. I met there many people, their friends and neighbours, all wonderful.
This family gave me all. I left them but they still support me; a marvellous family.
I thank JRS who allowed me to meet all these great people in my life. I have had their love, sympathy , assistance, support…really happy with all of them…”
Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic we have had to suspend our normal weekly drop-in day centre for refugees in Wapping. Instead we have been providing increased levels of support through regular deliveries of emergency food & toiletry parcels, mobile phone top-ups and the distribution of cash cards through which we top up hardship payments remotely. We have also been running all of our usual refugee activities remotely on Zoom, including our community kitchen project, creative arts space and a new open writing space. We have started running small socially distanced picnics for our refugee friends in different areas of London; we have realised just how many have felt very isolated in this time.
Many of our friends from the day centre have been coming for long periods of time and there is such a great community life there. Many of our refugee friends really miss this sense of community and shared belonging, and seeing their friends each month.
A hosting placement at this time can mean the world to our refugee friends and it is the difference between a place to feel safe and utter destitution.
If you live in London, and would like to find out more about opening your home to a refugee for a short period of time, please get in touch with Naomi: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note the JRS ‘At Home’ hosting scheme is based in London, and as such we can only accept volunteer hosts who live in the Greater London area. If you’re unsure whether you can take part where you live, please contact Naomi.