Couple didn’t know what to do with their home when their children moved out – their decision has been inspirational
By Sophie Halle-Richards Reporter 08:42, 9 APR 2023, and 16:24, 11 APR 2023
When the last of Catherine’s three children left the family home in Didsbury, she and her husband were at a loss what to do with the space.
They planned to downsize eventually, but felt guilty about their number of empty bedrooms. After a friend came to stay for a few months, the couple found they enjoyed the hustle and bustle of having a guest in their home.
So, they decided to open it up to strangers. Catherine has close connections to the asylum-seeking process through her job, and wanted to help refugees in desperate need of a home.
And after reading that football presenter, Gary Lineker had too opened up his home to refugees, Catherine decided to get in touch with the charity, Refugees at Home.
The organisation helps connect people with a spare room/s in their home to refugees and asylum seekers in need of somewhere temporary to stay.
Since signing up to the scheme, Catherine and her husband have housed three young male refugees and an older female who had travelled from Sudan, Kazakhstan, Iraq and Iran.
“They have been an absolute delight and it has been a wonderful process,” Catherine said, speaking to the Manchester Evening News.
Many of the refugees the organisation helps have become homeless after being granted asylum in the UK, meaning they often have to leave hotels or accommodation provided by the local authority.
They are then connected with hosts who give them a stable place to stay until they can find a more permanent place to live. Many of them are already working or in full-time education at this stage in their journey.
“We’ve had three young men and one older woman come to stay and they mostly want to live their own life and meet up with friends but we always offer meals and sometimes we eat together,” says Catherine.
“It can be intense to live in another person’s home when you come from a different culture. What seems to be most comfortable for them is they cook their own food and sometimes we sit together which is a nice dynamic for us too.
“The whole process has been a joy and we have learned so much about each of their astonishing journeys to get here. We have developed a huge amount of respect.
“It’s been a real growing journey for us as well. I don’t think there is enough understanding out there about how perilous it’s been for them to get to this point.
“You have to learn to trust someone and it comes with a bit of a cost but just learning to trust someone and it work out okay is a nice thing to go through.”
Hosts do not receive any funding to help look after guests, but do receive enhanced support from local homeless charities as well as Refugees at Home.
The organisation’s Deputy Director, Carly Whyborn, says they are in desperate need for most hosts in Greater Manchester, as the demand for homes is far greater than the supply.
“We hare having to turn people away because we don’t have enough hosts,” she said. “People only need to volunteer their home for a few weeks to a couple of months. Sometimes it’s just a matter of days.
“People have been so good with the Homes for Ukraine programme and we are looking for people to be hosts for an even shorter period of time than that.
“We have less than six hosts available in Greater Manchester at the moment. The people who are coming to us are homeless and living on the streets.”
Carly says she believes the demand for hosts is going to be even greater after the government announced last week that refugees living in hotels across the country will be written to in April and told they have three months to leave.
Some £35 million of new funding will help local councils provide increased support to help people move from hotels into accommodation across England.
But campaigners have raised concerns that there is a risk that refugees could be left ‘homeless and destitute on the streets of Britain.’
“These people have been in hotels for the last six months and they have made support networks here,” Carly added. “if they have to move out of the area the added trauma is going to be huge.”
To find out more about becoming a host with Refugees at Home, click here.