Hosting is based on the principle of hospitality: extending warmth and welcome to a guest. Hosting should be like inviting any other guest to stay at your house or in your community. In hosting a refugee guest, you’re committing to offering a safe and secure place to stay, facilities to wash, and somewhere to cook and eat.
There are two options for hosting, individual hosting and community sponsorship. Individual hosting is where the host offers a room in their house for a specific period and may support with signposting and integration. Conversely, community sponsorship involves a number of individuals who come together to form a group in order to support an individual/family with accommodation and to provide targeted wraparound support. Both require different levels of commitment and there exist different processes for each, nevertheless, the principle of hosting remains the same.
Potential hosts should be fully aware of what they are being asked to do, and whether this is something that they are able to commit to. You will need to consider the impact that offering a room in your home could have on your life and what it may take to support someone. We recommend that any potential host or sponsor researches the support that people fleeing conflict may need and what is available in their area or build connections locally to offer support prior to hosting/sponsoring, for example with a local refugee action group and/or a charity that works with refugees and asylum seekers. There are anecdotal reports of a relatively high rate of breakdown in arrangements between host households and refugees who have no prior connection and ‘found’ each other online outside the Government’s recognised matching services.
Some of those fleeing and being resettled may have suffered recent intense trauma. They have fled their homes, livelihoods and likely left family members behind in a situation of extreme uncertainty and danger. You should be prepared for the possibility of the refugee(s) you are hosting/sponsoring experiencing psychological trauma which may require medical attention.
There may also be language and cultural barriers – some of which may be immediately obvious, others may take time to learn and get to know. English language support will likely vary across England and Wales. Local charities working with refugees and asylum seekers will be best-placed to assist with signposting and support for such issues.
We strongly encourage potential hosts/sponsors to read through the available literature and resources on hosting and its challenges, speak with organisations offering hosting/sponsoring opportunities and to contact your local diocese / Caritas agency to discuss any concerns you may have, as well as those in your community who may have previously partaken in such programmes.
The No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) has produced a Hosting Good Practice Guide which explains what hosting entails and key considerations with regards to planning and welcoming.
The Vita Network have published some helpful resources for both hosts/sponsors and refugees, with a focus on trauma and recovery.
Image: Mosaic of Hospitality of Abraham. Credit: Lawrence OP, Flickr