Refugees at Home is a small UK based charity aiming to connect those with a spare room in their home with asylum seekers and refugees in need of accommodation.
1. How do I apply?
Please fill in the online Hosting Form, or alternatively, email us and ask for a host application form. Please can you fill it in and return it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Who are we trying to help?
The people we are trying to help are:
1) People who have been granted refugee status following a successful asylum application (or others in similar circumstances who have been permitted to remain in the UK) but who then have to vacate their housing within 28 days - in spite of having had no time to find somewhere else and get a job.
2) Asylum seekers, meaning people who have applied for asylum and whose application is ongoing. This includes people who have arrived in the UK informally and reported to the Home Office.
3) People who have been refused asylum and are appealing.
This includes people of a range of nationalities, including Syrians, Iraqi, Afghani and Somali.
3. How do I know a potential guest is OK?
We understand that you may feel vulnerable taking an unknown person into your home, and we do our best to make some checks on our potential guests, most of whom will have been referred by refugee agencies, such as the Refugee Council or Haringey Migrant Support Centre who we know. We take up references for those who are referred more informally. We will send you the guest application form. Of course it's your home and your decision. If you want to meet a potential guest before you decide if you can host, we will try to facilitate that.
4. Will Refugees At Home check up on me?
The guests are, if anything, more vulnerable as they are in a strange country with limited resources and contacts and possibly limited English language.
So when we receive your application form, we will arrange for one of our home visitors to contact you so they can come and meet you and your family and see the accommodation you are offering. It is important that everyone who lives in your home is content to take in a guest.
We need to check that you have thought through issues which may arise or if there will be any house rules. We also want to ensure that you are not expecting rent or services from your guest in return for their room as, due to recent changes in immigration law, it is vital that your guests make no financial contribution to the household which could be viewed as rent.
5. What happens after a guest arrives?
Refugees At Home assumes it is matching consenting and informed adults who will take responsibility for their continuing relationship. We are very unlikely to be able to intervene. But we do ask the Home visitor to call and check how it is going after a week and again (if relevant) after three weeks. You will have our email address for any queries. Usually the guest will have been referred by a refugee organization and your guest will have a contact there who should be able to help if problems arise.
6. How long am I expected to host for?
This is up to you. Some people do emergency hosting - for one night to a week. This is usually very short notice and you will probably not have the opportunity to meet your guest in advance. These are emergency placements, often of people who would otherwise be on the street for the night, weekend or longer.
You can host for a short time: 1-2 weeks, for a middling time: 2-6 weeks or for a longer period which might be several months. It's up to you.
7. Should I have house rules?
Our experience is that the relationship works best if everyone is as clear as possible about what is acceptable in your home. If you cannot bear smoking, say so. If you expect help with the washing up if you have cooked a meal, say so. Do you have particular concerns about laundry, the treatment of the cat, vegetarianism, loud rock music after midnight, not eating pork or the use of halal meat? It's best to have these clear at the start.
8. What happens if it all goes wrong?
It's your home and if you want a guest to leave, you just have to tell them. Unless there is a critical/safeguarding reason for you wanting someone out immediately, we would ask you give us a few days notice so we can try and find another placement.
9. What are my financial responsibilities?
Most of our guests are pretty much destitute. If you can provide some meals, that's really helpful. Some hosts provide travel cards/Oysters too. This helps your guest to maintain contacts, to get to appointments and not to be isolated in your home all the time. We hope to be able to help to provide travel cards eventually, but do not yet have this facility.
10. If I decide not to host, is there anything else I can do to help?
If, having thought about it, you decide you cannot take in anyone at the moment, please let us know. We understand that people's circumstances change and there may be other ways you can help:
1) We need home visitors to assess potential hosts. If you are a health visitor/district nurse/social worker/mental health practitioner or similar, might you be willing to visit potential hosts?
2) Please tell your friends about Refugees At Home and put them in touch if they are interested
3) Would you be interested in volunteering to help us with some of the administration as Refugees At Home expands?
11. Can I host an unaccompanied child through Refugees At Home?
We don't arrange the hosting of unaccompanied child refugees. It is very strictly controlled and regulated and children arriving here alone are the responsibility of the local authority. Most are then fostered or, if older, placed in some sort of hostel.
If you want to foster, do contact your local authority - but the process can be quite onerous.
If you want more information about unaccompanied children, The Separated Child Foundation is a charity focused on these asylum-seekers and refugees.
12. Is hosting a refugee legal?
As a reminder, please refer to the response to question 2 for an explanation of the difference between 'refugees' and 'asylum seekers'.
Refugees (and some other people, as mentioned in question 2 above) will have the right to remain in the UK for varying periods of time and in some cases indefinitely. Hosting a refugee or other such person during these times is legal provided that no rent (or other payment which might be construed as rent) is being paid.
Most asylum seeker guests are referred to us by established referral agencies. Provided that guests are not paying any rent to their hosts and that hosts have no reason to believe their guests are in the UK illegally, we would not expect there to be any immigration law problems with hosting an asylum seeker guest who has an ongoing asylum application or appeal. Where a guest has exhausted the appeal process, more careful consideration would be needed regarding ongoing hosting.
If you feel that you need legal advice regarding your position as a host, this would need to be sought separately as Refugees at Home isn't qualified to provide this sort of advice to hosts.
13. Might hosting affect my sole occupancy council tax discount?
The approach taken in relation to sole occupancy discounts varies from council to council. If you are considering hosting you can contact your council with any queries, however if you are a current host we suggest you contact your guest's caseworker in the first instance, as information disclosed to the council could adversely affect your guest's position.
14. Might hosting affect my housing benefits?
Individual councils may take different approaches, but providing hosting for a guest could affect the amount of housing benefits you receive, particularly if the guest is staying for a substantial amount of time, on the basis that you have a spare room or because the guest is a non-dependant adult who should in the council's view be paying rent. If you are considering hosting you can contact your council with any queries, however if you are a current host we suggest you contact your guest's caseworker in the first instance, as information disclosed to the council could adversely affect your guest's position.
15. Will my insurance cover my guest while I am hosting them?
The scope of coverage offered by insurance policies varies, so you should contact your insurer with any queries. You may need to notify your insurer, have your policy amended or obtain your insurer's consent in order to host. While Refugees at Home will endeavour to support hosts and guests, it cannot accept any liability in relation to hosting arrangements.
16. What is Refugees at Home's role in setting up hosting arrangements?
Refugees at Home will match generous hosts with guests who are asylum-seekers or refugees. It will arrange a home visit of hosts, make basic checks on guests and may arrange follow-up visits and provide other limited forms of support for hosts and guests. It does not provide social work services or other regulated services (including care, medical or legal services) to guests, hosts or anybody else.
Refugees at Home will not be responsible for verifying the accuracy of information provided by hosts or guests or managing the continuing relationship between hosts and guests. It will not pay hosts; hosting is an altruistic relationship where no rent or services in lieu are due in exchange for the hosting. Refugees at Home will not be finding placements for children, or guests with serious mental health issues or substance abuse problems. It matches adults who take responsibility for their own actions. Refugees at Home will do what it can to ensure a successful placement but cannot guarantee this.