Refugee Hosts: To register to host refugees in your home, go here. If this link is not working complete the standalone version.
Caseworkers: wishing to apply for an account to refer refugees, migrants or those claiming asylum who have no home plus no recourse to support/funds: go here.
Responding to the Refugee Crisis
Today we’re seeing the biggest movement of people to Europe since the refugee crisis following World War II. If you’ve come to this site because you want to respond to what you’ve seen on the news, thank you. Showing hospitality is one of the most practical and powerful ways you can respond. Many of those we’re trying to settle are from Syria. They’re also from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Iran, and many other countries suffering war, human rights abuse and environmental catastrophe.
Room for Refugees (not to be confused with other programmes which may have less expertise) has been working for 15 years to find shelter for men, women and children fleeing for their lives.
Bringing hope of resolution
Room for Refugees finds, selects and supports people willing to offer space in their own homes to people forced to seek refuge in the UK – those who are homeless and forbidden to work or claim state benefits.
We have placed well over 1,000 people, for anything from a week to several years. Hosts decide how long they can offer a room, according to their circumstances.
Room for Refugees’ aims are:
- To provide safe accommodation for people seeking refuge and pursuing their legal cases, who do not have the means to support themselves
- To enable those moved by compassion and a sense of justice to want to offer space in their own homes to someone in need
- To bring hosts together to make their communities refugee friendly
If you think you may be able to help by offering time, money or accommodation please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell me about your charity?
Positive Action in Housing is a registered Scottish charity and has been around since 1995. (To find out more, see the About Us section of this website).
In 2002, we responded to the problem of destitution by pioneering a refugee hosting programme in Scotland . The programme provides short to medium term emergency and humanitarian shelter.
The overall aim is to help people who are seeking refuge to build new lives.
What is Room for Refugees?
It is the name of our refugee hosting programme. We began the programme in response to the increasing numbers of destitute refugees coming to our drop in surgeries. People were being left without their basic human needs e.g. food, shelter, financial means, emergency hostels. They are refused permission to work and are forbidden to have recourse to public funds. The policy of enforced destitution as a way of forcing people to leave the UK is not working. More and more genuine refugees are being fast tracked into destitution.
The Room for Refugees Programme went viral in September 2015 following the Syrian Refugee Crisis coming to the attention of the EU. The programme makes a difference by giving vulnerable people the breathing space to assess their options and secure the support needed to gain a positive decision on their asylum claim or be granted ‘Leave to Remain’.
Refugee hosting in the U.S.
We plan to expand the Programme to the US where we have several thousand hosts.
How do you find the people in need of help?
We meet people in person at our drop in surgeries. We accept referrals from almost 300 refugee aid organisations, local authorities and caseworkers all over the UK. These include the British Red Cross and the Refugee Council.
How do you match guests and hosts?
We accept online referrals from almost 300 refugee aid organisations, local authorities and caseworkers all over the UK.
We then systematically filter and identify potential hosts out of the thousands of people on our system. This is depending on the needs of the refugee family or individual.
We take into account the household composition of hosts and the local connections of the person needing refuge, e.g. GP, College, lawyer, reporting requirements.
Safety is a key consideration in selecting the best match in order to minimise risk. We reserve the right to de-register hosts or decline hosting guests at any time during the screening process.
How does Room for Refugees work?
When a suitable placement comes up, we will identist hosts who best match the guest/s in the desired areas. If your name comes up as a potential match we will contact you via email. At this point you will have the opportunity to tell us whether you have availability. We will never pressure you to take a guest.
If you can take someone, the caseworker will contact you to discuss the situation and if appropriate you may be able to meet them first. Occasionally in an emergency this is not possible. The caseworker will provide as much information as they can, including language and dietary requirements.
A hosting agreement is then drawn up to ensure that time frames and other arrangements are made very clear. This is signed by all parties. The guest is also given a code of conduct to make sure your home is respected.
The hosting can then commence for a fixed time period. We usually set hosting at a minimum of one month with a week’s trial and this can then continue if you are all agreed. We will provide you will access to support and the caseworker throughout the process and ongoing into the hosting period.
What is the ideal match?
The best experience for all tends to be where you have a stable home and the physical and emotional availability to host someone.
If you are interested in becoming a host to someone in the near future please complete the online application at the top of this page.Please also drop an email to email@example.com stating your availability and how long you could potentially host if the arrangement worked well. We will then add you to our reserve list and contact you should a suitable match arise.
How safe is the programme?
To minimise risk, we follow safety checks with potential hosts. There may be additional risk checks by the caseworker depending on how vulnerable the potential guest is, for example where young people or children are involved.
Example: In December 2015, we asked the Social Work Department of a London borough to carry out their own checks to satisfy themselves that our host was suitable to accommodate their client who was pregnant and had a young child.
In working with caseworkers, we will accommodate additional safety checks. We will request evidence such as references, DBS/CRB/PVG checks and ID.
We also ask for photographs of the host, the guest and their home/bedroom. Images of hosts and guests are for our records only and will never be published without your permission. (We also like to see who we helped host and it gives our staff a lot of satisfaction to know we were able to help). We will disclose relevant information about guests to hosts, and vice versa, in strictest confidence.
Hosting is an entirely voluntary arrangement between you and your guest, we cannot take responsibility for issues that arise. However, problems are rare and we are always available and work hard to resolve any that do arise quickly.
Remember, safe and successful hosting depends on following procedures and having open and regular communication between guest, host and caseworker.
What kind of feedback has the scheme got so far?
The feedback so far suggests that the majority of hosts find the experience personally enriching and rewarding.
They have the opportunity to provide stability to someone in a difficult stage in their journey to refuge and independence.They also have the opportunity to share their empty rooms or homes and material wealth, and gain emotional well being and a deep sense of satisfaction in the process.
Our guests appreciate the help given and often form lifelong friendships with their hosts. In the near future, we intend to expand the scheme to Western Europe and the U.S. where there is growing demand for the scheme as a force for good.
Can I choose who I host?
We select hosts using a filtering system and identify suitable matches based on your preferences. We work hard to match the needs of hosts and guests, and will always respect the wishes of both parties. For example, many women clients prefer to stay with other women and most female volunteers would rather host women. We also have hosts who are happy to share their living space with men and families. For safety reasons we will restrict who we ask you to accommodate, even if you have alternative preferences. Ultimately, it is up to you who you welcome as a guest. We provide the opportunities for safe hosting.
But i feel nervous!
Please be reassured that we have almost 13 years’ experience and expertise in making this work. If you feel nervous about hosting, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to the caseworker and we will listen to your concerns and reassure you.
The caseworker for your guest will stay in touch with you to ensure you feel supported and the arrangements are running smoothly. You are more than welcome to get in touch with us and our experienced caseworkers are available if you have questions. Feel free to email email@example.com.
How do you decide where to place someone in need of help?
It depends on their connection with a local area and whether their needs match our hosts. We also take into account the household composition of hosts to get the best match. Safety is a key consideration in order to minimise risk and we do reject some potential hosts and guests.
How long will my guest stay with me/us?
We ask our hosts to offer a minimum of one month’s hosting, with a week’s trial to see how things work out.
At no point in the hosting process will we pressure you to keep someone. We understand that for whatever reason it may not be convenient to host someone at certain times of the year or different occasions so we will fit around your schedule. Sometimes things do not work out and our guests are made aware of this.
Circumstances also change and this is perfectly understandable.
Before proceeding with hosting, you will sign a hosting agreement detailing the length of stay, arrangements for food and other mutually agreed terms. This will also be signed by the guest and their caseworker.
What support will the person need?
Each person is different. Caseworkers may provide the client with a small amount of money or refer them to food banks. We ask that you share basic food items (e.g. bread, butter, milk) with your guest but please do not feel under pressure to do this. Please also let us know if you feel there is a need for extra support, financial or otherwise. You are not expected to be with them all the time. In an ideal arrangement both the volunteer and guest go about their own daily business with relative independence. Any additional support you want to provide is up to you.
What if they don’t speak English?
Most clients do speak English but if not we can introduce you with an interpreter. This is not always possible as we often find out about destitute clients at very short notice. We would at the very least provide you with an interpreter’s phone number in case of any difficulty.
What if we don’t get on?
This rarely happens. We are, of course, on hand to resolve things quickly if you have any difficulty and the initial week’s trial is a safety net for any issues that might crop up.
I am thinking of offering a room but am worried about giving access to my home to a completely unknown person without any understanding of what checks have been made re their honesty, mental health etc. How do you assess suitability for placement?
The caseworkers who refer into our organisation know the clients very well and they make the recommendations. In some cases we do reject a client (or host) as unsuitable for placement with the scheme, in order to minimise risk. Remember, the person is a guest in your home so you would take the usual precautions as for any new guest. Generally, we experience very few problems but if you are overly nervous or worried then perhaps hosting is not for you. However, our experience tells us that as long as we carefully match and minimise risk then most times everything will go well.
Do I take my guest out of the house when i go out?
No. We ask for dignity, mutual respect and trust. Our guests are aware that they are guests in your home, and that there should be minimum disruption to your schedule. Likewise, we ask our hosts to understand the situation of guests. If you are not comfortable with such an arrangement then it is best not to host someone.
How long will the person stay?
This is always a temporary arrangement, although in a few cases people have stayed for several months or years. After the initial month the caseworker will try to find the person somewhere else to stay. If the client’s government support application takes longer than expected, the caseworker may ask you to host for an additional few days. If you are unable to we will try to find alternative accommodation. In some cases you may be happy to have your guest stay with you longer, and that is fine with us too.
“We worry that our guest is perhaps too quiet and keeps too much to himself. He sits on his own a lot, and takes a lot of persuading to join us for meals. We would love him to open up more.”
We get many hosts telling us that their guest is a little reserved. We ask guests about this , the answer we tend to get is that the person doesn’t want to impose more on your home life than they already are. Part of it is guilt at the imposition as the word guest doesn’t adequately describe the arrangement, and part of it is sadness as they also once had a family life. The other reason often given is that they don’t want to get used to your kindness because of an uncertain future. All complex and poignant reasons and hard to untangle when the first priority is shelter and basic food is met.
Okay, I signed up. When will you offer me a guest?
Once someone is referred to us and is in need, we may contact you if our system identifies you as a suitable match. And then we will get in touch and check your availability and commence further screening.
Some of our hosts have asked why we have not contacted them soon after they register. This is because we have not yet found a suitable match for you. We are building a database to ensure that all areas of the UK are covered so the scheme can continue to grow. The current refugee situation is with us for the foreseeable future and we always need more volunteers who are prepared to welcome people into their homes!
(thank you to Helen Hodgson of Birmingham for editing this text for us.)