We are excited to introduce Swindon’s new Hosting scheme ‘Room for All’ which aims to match destitute refugees to hosts who can offer a short-term spare room in their own homes.

Why is there a need for a hosting scheme in Swindon?

When an asylum seeker is granted their Leave to Remain by the Home Office and becomes a refugee, the feelings of happiness and relief can be quickly replaced by feelings of fear and abandonment. The Home Office will withdraw the basic accommodation and cash support of £36.95 per week after 28 days, their only means of survival.

In most cases, 28 days is not long enough to obtain documents such as a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or National Insurance Number necessary to gain employment or claim benefits. It is certainly not long enough to save up a rental deposit. Once the 28 days are up, the refugee will be evicted and may become destitute, unable to afford food, sofa-surfing with friends or living on the streets. The Refugee Council have put together this report which covers the issue in more detail.

This is where ‘Room for All’ steps in to help Swindon-based refugees who have or will find themselves destitute.

Host coordinator Jane speaks to guest Alex

 

So how does ‘Room for All’ work?

We piloted the scheme in May 2017, and are currently reviewing the scheme going forward. We are looking for more hosts and volunteers to help us run the scheme as it grows, and these are the most commonly asked questions we have received.

Q: How many people are in the scheme?

A: So far 4 guests have been matched with 4 out of 8 available hosts. Another guest was helped into permanent housing before hosting began. We aim to have at least double the number of host houses to guests at any point in time, so that no host feels overstretched. This will enable movement from one host to another if necessary due to a longer period of destitution. 

 

Q: How long have the guests stayed with the hosts?

A: 2 stayed for 2.5 weeks each, 1 stayed for 4 weeks and 1 stayed for almost 4 months. The length of stay is decided by the host prior to the guest being offered a room.

 

Q: Do the hosts cook for or with the guests? Do they give them a key?

A: All of these (and other) instances can be worked out and mutually agreed between the host and the guest, with the assistance of the host coordinator. Going forward we are looking to recruit seperate support workers for both the guests and hosts who can be contacted with any concerns.

 

Q: What if the guest does not want to move on? What if they are traumatised or need additional support?

A: All terms and conditions of the stay are agreed at the first meeting, and an exit plan is in place from the beginning. All guests are referred via The Harbour Project where they are well known, therefore any refugees requiring additional support would not be part of the ‘Room for All’ scheme, but housed by the relevant authority.

 


 

Below is a piece written by a host family about their experience.
*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the guest and hosts.

“As part of our commitment to City of Sanctuary, we offered to be a host family. Our family consists of *Mark & I, our son (3rd year at University) & daughter saving to move out, now aged 23.

Host families are needed due to the system. Refugees are given accommodation whilst things are processed but as soon as they have leave to remain,  they must leave that accommodation. This is before they have all they need in terms of government paperwork to work and find accommodation!

This is where *Mohammed found himself aged 19. Two years after fleeing detention in a country that doesn’t recognise him, using plane, coaches, lorries, foot, and yes the boat like we’ve all seen photos of. Having made it to Swindon, *Mohammed was finally granted leave to remain. He stayed with us 4 weeks and is now part of our family. He learnt a little more English, he laughed at the same things as us, he followed world news intently. We learnt where to buy Halal meat, how alien a knife & fork can be, how rough life is for far too many, and that family can be made in just four weeks.
  
There are no financial rewards. City of Sanctuary cannot offer hosts payment and it is made clear that you can’t give money or gifts to your guest. Until their right to work is processed they don’t have money but others take care of that. It’s simply a home, food and love. If you have a spare room do give it a go. There’s no pressure, we said no first time of asking as it wasn’t the right time. City of Sanctuary meet families & the guest a few days in and are always there to answer questions, as are we.
  
Things worth knowing –
– Harbour run every weekday & the refugees spend most of their time together away from the home.
– For meals it may be better for everyone to help themselves, not formally sat around the table at mealtimes.
– Dominoes is very competitive, in refugee camps it is played often, long into the night!”
 
*Sarah our daughter wrote….
“Opening our home to *Mohammed, has been the most insightful, emotive and inspiring experience. We could not have asked a more kind, caring and humble addition to our family. Here we are sharing traditional Arabic food prepared by *Mohammed and his friends. These guys are our brothers. If you have spare time to volunteer, money to donate or even a spare room I urge you to get involved.”

 

If you would like further information please contact our Development Worker Nicola at [email protected] or on 07850941666.

The Swindon Advertiser’s coverage of ‘Room for All’ can be read here

Our thanks go to the Wiltshire Community Foundation for funding our host coordinator position to make this project possible.