Clergy offering hospitality to destitute migrants
Do you have a spare room that you could offer to a homeless migrant or refugee? You can host for a weekend, a week or a few months, depending on your circumstances. Capital Mass and the Diocese of London are working in partnership with Housing Justice to provide temporary accommodation for London’s destitute migrants and refugees while their asylum or immigration case is being addressed.
Hosting offers a practical way for Clergy to provide the stability needed for destitute migrants and refugees whilst their case to remain in the UK is decided. Guests are referred to Housing Justice by recognised agencies operating in London and then Hosts are invited to offer hospitality in their season of need.
‘It says in the New Testament “Neglect not hospitality for some thereby entertained angels unawares”. This campaign is very much in the spirit of the Christian faith from its earliest time’ The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
This campaign has been catalysed by the hospitality shown by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in welcoming a Syrian Family to Lambeth Palace.
Hosting offers a practical way for Clergy to provide the stability needed for destitute migrants and refugees whilst their case to remain in the UK is decided.
Guests are referred to Housing Justice by recognised agencies operating in London and then Clergy are invited to offer hospitality in this season of need.
Guests are referred for hosting by agencies who know them, have vetted them and who continue to work on their cases. Housing Justice ensures that the hospitality offered runs as smoothly as possible.
Before you agree to Host an individual guest, you will be informed about them and have a chance to meet each other, as we know that the match process is key.
As part of the induction process both the host and guest sign a Hosting Agreement which sets out the boundaries of stay so all are clear. In essence, house rules. For an example of a Hosting Agreement please click here.
Each guest through Housing Justice receives basic financial support each week.
NB: Clergy Hosting has the support of the Bishops in the Diocese of London together with the Diocesan Registry, the Safeguarding and Property Teams.
Tommy Cloherty Housing Justice
Housing Justice Hosting Scheme has been operating in London since September 2015. Housing Justice has however been coordinating the London Hosting Network for many years which works with a number of projects including the Quakers, Praxis and Jesuit Refugee Service accommodating guests with no recourse to public funds.
The interest in Hosting increased in an unprecedented way following the picture on 2nd September 2015, of the body of little boy Aylan Kurdi drowned off the coast of Turkey. Housing Justice and other schemes providing hosting were inundated with phone calls and emails from people who had spare space and wanted to help.
If people don’t have a spare room but would like to support the project, we encourage donations to our fund which provides guests with £25.00 per week hardship funding if they have no other source of income
• As of the end of October 2016, 3662 nights hosting had been provided by the Housing Justice hosting scheme • We currently have 50 registered Hosts, with 25 guests currently on the programme (some hosts are only available for short term placements and others are not currently able to host). • There have been 33 guests placed (some more than once if their first host needed the room back) • 10 people have moved on successfully from hosts, either to NASS accommodation, friends and family or other longer-term accommodation • We have 14 men and 4 women on our waiting list at the moment but the need is higher than this and when we are able to recruit more hosts, we will be able to identify further guests.
The Ven John Hawkins Archdeacon of Hampstead
Luke 2. 6. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
- and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
Because there was no room for them in the inn!
And all this time I was under the impression that the reason Mary and Joseph ended up in the stable was because the inn was full.
Isn’t that what we sing in our Christmas carols – “In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed?” This is certainly what we see in all the nativity plays across the country, even of our own childhood: “There is no room – the inn is full – you can stay in the stable out back.”
But, that’s not what Luke says happened here, he doesn’t say the inn was full – he just says that there was no room “for them”. What does that mean? - “for them” - what was it that made the innkeeper turn them away I wonder on the most hopeful night of our year?
As we enter this holy season of Advent, like Mary and Joseph we are travelling with them on the dusty road to Bethlehem. Like them we are preparing for the birth of Christ once again in our hearts this Christmas. There are many in our world who face dangers on a journey to a place that they hope to call their home.
Mary and Joseph travel because the Emperor had decreed that they needed to in order to be registered in his Great Empire as citizens. I recall the humiliation, the anger and the hurt of many hundreds of people from Jamaica who in the 1980s were forced to register their right to be in the county that that they had been brought up to believe was their mother country, the country that had turned to them for help as it came out of the destruction of two world wars, a country that they had thought to belong and had put roots down and grown families and businesses as one island people amongst another.
This Advent many of us journey with Joseph and Mary but thank God for not having to face the dangers of that journey, and in thanking God know that for many others such a blessing has alluded them.
As we prepare to welcome the Christ child into our hearts this Christmas, maybe as clergy we can look anew at the blessings that we have received in the incredible privilege that is Christian ministry and see if we have room in our homes for those who have made the perilous journey to our own front door.
> Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, When Thou camest to earth for me; But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room For Thy holy nativity. O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee.
Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliott (1836-1897)
What people say
The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres Bishop of London
It says in the New Testament “Neglect not Hospitality for some thereby entertained angels unawares.” This campaign is very much in the spirit of the Christian Faith from its earliest time.
Guest Awaiting Home Office Decision
Being hosted is everything for me; it’s a big deal. I’m secure and feel good because I’m here. Everything has changed – I eat and sleep properly, I still worry a bit about things but less than before. It’s a big difference because I can go and buy things [with the destitution payments] I have now been able to begin voluntary work in two places; a charity shop for the blind and also at a charity for immigrant women, where I look after their children when they have to go to appointments.
The Rt Revd Adrian Newman Bishop of Stepney
Welcome and Hospitality are at the very heart of the Gospel, so I’m delighted to commend a campaign which hosts friends from other countries made vulnerable by force of circumstances - this it seems to me, is the Good News made visible.
Guest Awaiting Home Office Decision
I was on the verge of being kicked out from my previous hostel as it was being closed down and wouldn’t have had anywhere else to stay. Having a place to stay has meant I’ve been able to carry on volunteering, running groups for young people. Being in a host household feels pretty good actually, it’s a way to meet people as well, and I’ve been able to make new friends in a new area
Richard Gough General Secretary, Diocese of London
To have safe and welcoming accommodation is a basic human need, which many refugees and asylum seekers do not have. I am excited that this creative approach may lead to more people having a place they can call home – whether for a few days or a few months. I hope that those who feel able to open their homes may be equally blessed through new friendships and perspectives.
Guest Awaiting Home Office Decision
It’s made a lot of difference to my life because now I don’t have to think about where I’m going to sleep each night; it’s had a big impact, honestly. I don’t need to be hiding, waiting for people to come home so I can get in, having to ask unnecessary people for accommodation who would want “something” in return. I’m more relaxed now, not as stressed as I used to be; my blood pressure has gone down and I know it’s because of this. It’s been a big help and I’ve done a childcare course at college which I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. It’s also meant I’ve met new people, people who just want to help and are being nice – I thought everyone was just horrible before, but these people [hosts] just want to help, they’re not looking for anything in return
Revd Sally Hitchiner
Revd Sally Hitchiner talks about her experiences of offering welcome and hospitality to a young refugee.
Revd Ifeanyi Chukuka
Revd Chukuka reminding us that this isn’t about preaching The Word it’s making The Word practical.
Fr Jack Noble
Fr Jack tells us that Hosting has been easier than he first imagined because life with people is at the heart of Christian Vocation
Reflections on Hosting with a young family
I decided to host because I was shocked to see the images of the 3-year-old Turkish boy, Alan Kurdi, who drowned, along with his brother and mother, and couldn’t believe that the British government was not doing more. An article mentioned the idea of “spare rooms for refugees” – we have a spare room, so I thought that it would be a good way to help.
A few weeks later, I went along to an information session put on by Housing Justice who explained that their program helps migrants whose bid for asylum have failed but they have good grounds to apply and are homeless and destitute because they are unable to work or receive benefits. I spoke to some hosts afterwards – who were very positive and said that any issues that arose were minor “housemate” type issues like “who finished the milk” which were easily resolved. I wasn’t sure whether it would be awkward having a stranger live with us and how our guest would cope with living with us – our children are 2 and 5 years old – but wanted to give it a go.
I filled out an application form and then a few weeks later, Tommy from Housing Justice came to visit us to assess our suitability to host, to help us apply for a DBS check and to check our ID and address documents. He came about an hour before bedtime and our children were delighted to meet him and it was absolute chaos trying to fill out the forms and answer his questions whilst our children were bouncing off the walls. The chaos was a little embarrassing but on reflection, it was probably better that Tommy met our family as we are for him to place someone suitable person with us.
A few months later, Tommy asked us to meet a guest who is in his sixties who had received a decision but was waiting for his pension credits to be sorted out. We met him at a local coffee shop with his caseworker and Tommy and we agreed that we would be happy hosting him. After going through the hosting agreement, he and his caseworker walked home with us – and he moved in that day.
In the lead-up, we had said to our children that we might have someone live with us and explained that the person doesn’t have a home and we have a spare room so it makes sense for us to help. Our 5-year-old was very excited about the idea and asked lots of questions. She was delighted to meet our guest for the first time – she happily chatted away with him and spontaneously gave him a big hug and even said “I love you” at bedtime. I had felt unsure how we would all feel – but our children made it less awkward as they were incredibly open, curious and welcoming – running to give him hugs whenever they saw him. We hosted our guest for 2 months - we were thrilled to hear that our guest’s papers had come through and he was able to move into his own place.
Hosting has had a positive impact on our family and we would host again.
What will hosting involve? Hosting is like inviting any other guest to stay at your house. We are not asking for professional support to be offered, simply a place to stay, facilities to wash and somewhere to cook and eat.
Who will be my guest? Housing Justice Hosting aims to provide accommodation for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Destitute Migrants who are single adults (not under 18s) and not eligible for other support. Below are the reasons why people may be guests with Housing Justice Hosting:
Refugees: they have been granted refugee status but have not yet received their NI number, or their benefits haven’t been processed so they don’t immediately have any means of support;
Asylum Seekers: their initial claim for asylum has been refused and appeals dismissed but they are in the process of putting together a Fresh Claim for asylum with a solicitor based on new evidence. Once they submit the Fresh Claim they can apply for National Asylum Support Service support (NASS).
- Destitute Migrants: most of those who are hosted fall under the Refugee or Asylum Seeker category but some are awaiting decisions from the Home Office for other applications to remain in the UK. They may have come to the UK as children but their status was never regularised. They are not eligible for other support whilst this application is being processed.
Hosting gives an invaluable opportunity for migrant support agencies to work on cases and stabilise guests so that they are able to re-access public funds or even resolve their case so that the right to live in the UK is granted to them. Guests are referred to Housing Justice Hosting by advisers and caseworkers from homelessness and refugee support agencies operating in London. Self-referrals aren’t accepted. To see a Guest referral criteria please click here.
We will give you as much information about the guest as possible before you meet them. People with a current drug or alcohol addiction, history of violence or criminal behaviour, severe mental or physical health needs will not be referred through hosting. We may accept referrals for guests with less serious physical or mental health (e.g. depression) needs if we have hosts who are confident in dealing with these issues. If you have such qualifications and/or experience and are willing to host such guests, please indicate this clearly on the application form.
I have children at home, can I still host? Yes! Many families find that hosting is great with children. We can help you think through the things you need to consider. Read what Melanie Howlett – Khera says about hosting with young children.
How long may I be required to host for? You indicate the time you want to host in the application form and we take it into account when we arrange a placement. Some people host only for one or two nights whilst others do it for several months at a time. Placements may be extended if both host and guest are happy to continue. Hosts can contact the scheme coordinator to end the placement at any time.
If I can only host for a short time what will happen to my guest afterwards? We shall do our best to match your availability with the guest’s needs. If a guest needs to be hosted for longer than you are available, we shall do our best to find them an alternative (which may be another host or a different solution) when their time with you is over.
Do I have to give my guest a key to my home? You do not have to if you prefer not to. You may decide to do so after you have had a chance to get to know your guest better. However, if you do not give your guest the use of the key, it is important to make arrangements on when they are expected to leave the house and come back.
What should I provide my guest with? As a minimum, we expect that the guest will be provided with a place to sleep (ideally a room but it may be a sofa bed in the living room), bedding and towel, place to store and cook food and a place to keep their belongings and to wash their clothes. General conduct and safety rules for staying in somebody’s house will be explained to the guest at the introductory meeting, but please make them aware of any specific requirements you may have regarding coming and going, use of kitchen, bathroom, telephone, computer etc.
How will I be supported? The Housing Justice hosting coordinator will contact you at least once a month during the placement to find out how the hosting is going. You are also able to contact the coordinator at any time with any questions or concerns from yourself or your guest.
Will I receive any financial support? We do not have funds to support hosts, therefore we request that you do not incur any expenses which you would not have incurred otherwise. Some hosts may be able to provide meals, others not. Either is fine and will be discussed at interview. The guest should not ask you for money and it will be made clear to them when the placement is arranged. Each guest will receive £25 a week from Housing Justice or their referral agency so they should, therefore be able to buy food and toiletries as well as travel around as needed. We also have links with existing food and clothing banks for additional support.
What if we don’t get along? We work hard to match hosts and guests, as far as possible. We will give you as much information about your guest beforehand, as we can. Some guests will interact a lot with the host, others prefer to spend more time alone or with their friends outside the home. If an insurmountable problem arises, then the guest will be moved elsewhere. You are not contractually obligated.
How do I explain to my congregation who are also struggling with housing that I’m involved in Clergy Hosting and not in Housing “locals”? With regard to hosting, the focus is on people who have no recourse to public funds who are not able to access support from anywhere else. Those who can access the Clergy Hosting Scheme do not receive mainstream benefits and can’t access mainstream services for homeless people. If they didn’t have a friend to stay with, they would be on the street or some are able to access church winter night shelters for the months they open. Asylum Seekers and Destitute Migrants cannot access local authority homeless services.
Another response is to detail the provision for UK homeless people locally (please see here) which those with no recourse to public funds are unable to access. It’s sometimes helpful to explain the two issues of UK homelessness and migrant destitution as separate issues. There are many needs in our society and just because you support one does not mean you don’t support the other.
Theologically, the understanding of loving our neighbour is both a local and global command. Clergy Hosting is one part of the wider efforts by churches to love all our neighbours, both indigenous and foreign (Leviticus 19:34, 1 Peter 4:9).
Does this have the backing of our Bishops and the property department of the Diocese? Yes
Is this legal? Yes, and the Diocesan Registry has approved the campaign
Will I need to have a DBS check? Yes, and the Diocesan Safeguarding team are supportive of the campaign.
I can’t host what can I do? There are many other ways that you can help to meet the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and destitute migrants. Take a look at Capital Mass’ Webpage for ideas or contact us for more details
What’s the best way for my church community to help my guest if they want to? Each guest receives £25 a week either from their referral agency or Housing Justice’ destitution fund. If your church community is able to provide this support for your guest, it means that the Housing Justice destitution fund can help another guest. Other churches provide a ‘welcome box’ for a guest including an Oyster Card, toiletries and essential items.
What do I do if my guest needs extra emotional support because of their experiences in the past? All our guests are referred to us by Refugee Support agencies who know them and their needs. If they require counselling or help to deal with trauma, they will usually be already receiving this help by the time they start being hosted. We don’t accept guests onto the hosting scheme who have high additional support needs and who will place an additional burden on the host. However, if it becomes obvious that your guest has additional needs that are not currently being met, please get in touch with Tommy at Housing Justice. He will liaise with the Referral Agency to work out how best to help the guest. If it is no longer appropriate for the guest to be hosted, they will be referred elsewhere.
I’m not Clergy, can I still host? Of course! Please contact Tommy of Housing Justice directly on the below details
How do I refer a potential guest for hosting? Contact Tommy Cloherty at Housing Justice for more information 020 3544 8094/ 07827947016, hosting@HousingJustice.org.uk
Apply to host
Matthew 25.38 “When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?”
Contacts and Resources for Clergy
For further information please contact: Tommy Cloherty at Housing Justice 020 3544 8094/ 07827947016, hosting@HousingJustice.org.uk
To find out more from current guests and hosts at the next Clergy Information Evening: Monday evening, 16th January at St James’ Piccadilly. Book your place here
These resources will help you to promote what you are doing as a Host in your church and wider community, with the hope of encouraging others to do the same.
Please contact Capital Mass if you’d like some leaflets or posters printing off and posting to you for promotion to fellow colleagues.