Every placement, host and guest are different. We offer the below based on our experience of managing placements and hearing from our hosts, guests and referrers. Your own experience as a host may be different.
On the day that a guest arrives, you can simply communicate that they are welcome. For some guests, it can be important to give them space to get used to your home at their own pace.
Showing a guest that they can feel welcome can be very simple – lots of smiles, showing them around and making it clear where they can store any belongings. The offer of tea and something to eat is usually welcome, although occasionally, your guest might not want to eat. This is not anything personal, but just that they are already overwhelmed and the prospect of eating in a strange place can be just too alarming. It is also worth checking on the information that we send whether your guest has any dietary requirements, for example if they have allergies or only eat halal meat – and perhaps confirming this with your guest.
Some guests may be keen to get to their room and relax in privacy, or to sleep. They may have gone through substantial stress in terms of unstable accommodation or their asylum case before arriving at the placement. Above all else, they may benefit from a safe, private place to stay at this point. They may be exhausted and want to sleep for a long time.
Early on in the placement, it can help to make it clear to the guest how your home works – which areas they can access, when the kitchen will be free for them to cook, what time the house should be quiet for the night. A very good way to do this is by preparing a Welcome Pack.
Refugees at Home will be available throughout your placement to support you with any concerns or questions that you may have.
When your placement was arranged, you will have been given the name and number of the member of the placement team who will be responsible for your placement. You can contact them via this number or the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. If you can’t get through to your allocated team member and want to talk to someone right away, you can call our general enquiries number available on our website and talk to another member of the team Monday – Sunday 9am to 6pm.
We will contact you perhaps the day after your placement to check that your guest has arrived safely and that everything is ok so far. Your Home Visitor will also contact you at the beginning of the placement, and will be available for questions and support. Please note that your Home Visitor will inform the placement team of any concerns that need their attention or action.
The placement team will then continue to check in on you at regular intervals – these may become more widely spaced if your placement goes on for a long time period and your guest has settled into your home well.
Our check-ins will generally be by email. Please make it clear to the team if you prefer a text or phone call, or prefer to be contacted more or less frequently. We may have to be in touch more frequently sometimes because of developments in a guest’s case that we are following up on. Throughout the placement, Refugees at Home will be in contact with the referrer or caseworker to make sure that a guest’s case is progressing according to the original plan. We are aware that in dealing with solicitors and the Home Office, progress can unfortunately be subject to long delays. However we will want to be satisfied that the referrer is doing everything that can be reasonably expected to support their guest in moving forward.
We will update our hosts with information that we get from caseworkers. This can include information about the progress of applications for other accommodation, or gathering information to be submitted as a fresh claim. Some of this information may be somewhat technical. Perhaps you will not want to concern yourself with the technicalities – you do not need to. However please don’t hesitate to ask us for an explanation if you wish to understand better.
As a host, you are not responsible for taking on your guest’s casework. We offer hosting to guests if we are confident that they have the necessary support from their referrer. Some help with filling forms for example may be very helpful to your guest. However it is very important that neither Refugees at Home or our hosts gives any kind of advice to our guests on their cases. It is illegal to give immigration advice if you are not a qualified immigration advisor. Doing so is also likely to undermine the work of the referrer, and perhaps confuse the guest. All casework is best left to the specialist referring organization.
Your guest should continue to be engaged with their move on plans. If they are an asylum seeker submitting a fresh claim or appeal, unfortunately they will probably be waiting on other agencies, or for documents to come through. There may not be a lot that they can really do to speed things up, and this can be difficult and frustrating for them. However it will be really important for them to engage with the process when they can. They may need to be meeting with their caseworkers or solicitors, and helping to gather or process evidence.
They will not be legally able to work or study. They might be supported by their own communities outside your home, or on a refugee support organisation. Some might do some voluntary work or study English. They may have things to do outside your home for long periods of the day, and perhaps may spend some occasional nights at friends’ houses. If you would prefer to know when a guest expects to be home and when they expect to be out, please make this clear to them. Also please communicate to them if there are certain times that you do not want them coming or going, for example, after 10pm at night. Please contact us in case of any concerns. We also have Coronavirus guidelines that we expect guests and hosts to follow which highlights that guests should not stay away from a host’s home overnight.
If your guest has refugee status, there will probably be more that they can personally do to move towards independence. They will usually be looking for a job and accommodation to rent. We also have some guests who are university or college students and need hosting until they are able to arrange their finances. Guests with Refugee status may be working towards these steps alone, or with the support of an organisation.
For guests that are searching for rented accommodation, a lack of affordable options can be a challenge. This is especially true in particular areas of the country such as London. Some of our hosts have been shocked by the lack of affordable options, and find it difficult to accept their guest’s move on options. Again it is important to consider that these options also represent independence for a guest.
For some guests, often those considered more vulnerable, there will be more options for supporting them into their own accommodation. Usually their caseworker will be working on this during the placement. The placement is likely to be quite short and the guest might mostly be waiting to move to the accommodation that they are entitled to.
Some of our guests can find it a challenge to settle into a new host household quickly. This may be more likely in a short placement. This generally has nothing to do with the household, and just with the guest’s own needs. They may choose to spend a lot of time alone in their room, and may wish to eat at different times to you. Sometimes this can be part of a guest’s drive to maintain independence. Other times, despite your very best efforts to reassure them, they may be ashamed at needing a placement and determined not to burden you further. And others may have moved through so many new places and new people and be under so much stress that they aren’t able to easily relax into a new setting. It is important for hosts not to feel responsible for this as it will not be related to you personally. The best approach is usually to give your guest the space and time they need, and to not expect them to be able to relax immediately. If you are particularly concerned with any aspect of your guest’s behaviour, you can let us know. We can discreetly explore how to promote a smoother placement with the help of the guest’s referrer.
Other guests will settle more quickly or want to spend more time with their host household. Some guests may really benefit from you showing them around the local area, introducing them to available activities, or inviting them to share some social activities with you. It can be useful for you to have a think about your own boundaries and what you can and can’t offer as a host. An example may be that if you are working from home, you may need to make it clear that you cannot be disturbed during certain times of the day.
Every placement is different, and it is important to remember how much difference you are making in sharing your home even for a short time. Making a claim for asylum is inevitably stressful and it can be hard to see someone dealing with a difficult situation. By hosting you have already done perhaps the most valuable and impactful thing possible for your guest at this stage.
Your placement will last as long as you want it to. We will agree this with you beforehand. Some placements last one night, and some last many months. This will depend on your needs, and the needs of the guest. Your space, household and preferences will all determine how long you can offer hosting.
Especially in larger cities, we do often get referrals for people needing short term or emergency placements of a week or less. We may also ask a host offering shorter term placements to host for a short time while we arrange a longer placement for a guest. Requests for shorter term placements are much less frequent outside bigger cities.
It is the case that many guests require hosting for many months, rather than days or weeks. We recognize that it is usually beneficial for guests if they can avoid moving around too much. We would encourage you to think about whether you may be comfortable offering longer term hosting. Many hosts prefer this as it gives everyone a chance to get to know each other, fully relax and settle into the household dynamic.
If you are thinking of offering a longer placement, we will agree on an initial period with you – perhaps a month. The guest and referrer will be informed that the placement is offered for a month. We will review with you at this stage to see whether you are happy to extend, or feel that it is time that your guest moved on. Refugees at Home will communicate this to your guest – it will not be up to you to ask your guest to leave your house, but rather Refugees at Home will tell your guest that the placement has to end. We will be working with referrers on alternatives. Of course it makes things much better for the guest, for their referrer, and for Refugees at Home if we can have as much notice as possible about any decisions to end a placement.
Guests can end up needing accommodated for longer than originally expected. This can happen for many reasons. It is fairly common that we may ask you if you would be happy to extend the placement, unless you have made it clear that we shouldn’t. If this happens, please remember that you are under no obligation and no pressure to accept. If you need your guest to move on, please just make that clear to us, with as much notice as you can, so that we can start to look for an alternative. Some hosts are able to offer extended hosting, but some are not and there is no expectation to.