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houses 246Hosting a refugee or an asylum seeker

Based on a handout developed by Action Foundation.

As Christians volunteer to open up their homes to refugees and asylum seekers, here are some thoughts regarding arrangements churches may want to put in place to set expectations and protect both the hosts and the guests.

This briefing therefore looks at private arrangements between refugees and/or asylum seekers (referred to guests) and volunteer hosts (property owners), so that they can share their homes for an agreed period of time. Although this may be co-ordinated by the local church, it is important to realise that whilst hosting should be a positive experience for all concerned, the church cannot accept any liability for private arrangements made between host and guest.


All hosts should be DBS checked. Where possible, checks should be made about the guests but in many cases this will not be possible. Leaders should visit hosts to look at facilities and talk to household members to see if hosting can really work.

Knowing who you are hosting

Leaders should help hosts understand who they are hosting whether that be a single adult or a family. The guests could come from anywhere in the world, not just Syria. Some will need a high level of extra support, for example, those with serious mental health conditions. It is suggested that these not be hosted privately.

Setting up a hosting arrangement

This should be an initial trial period. If this is successful and both host and guest are happy with the arrangement, the hosting period should continue for a predetermined length of time. It works better to have a pre-agreed length for the hosting arrangement so that there is no false expectation for the guest and no unhelpful obligation for the host.

It works best where two or three hosting households (ideally in the same area) share the responsibility for housing a guest so as to provide mutual support, flexibility and provide each other with respite.

What does hosting involve?

The role of the host is to provide the guest with:

  • A clean, safe, dry and warm bedroom with their own bed.
  • Access to food storage, refrigeration, preparation and cooking facilities.
  • Access to laundry/bathroom facilities.

Hosts should NOT to undertake:

  • Counselling or advice work.
  • Any work that is usually done by a skilled professional, e.g. taking responsibility for someone’s financial OR legal affairs.
  • Physical assistance of any kind and/or the work of a healthcare professional.
  • Indefinite hosting arrangements.

Recommendations from experience for hosts:

  • Be clear with the guest from the outset about simple house rules, eg. use of bathroom, living room and kitchen, when you want quiet, definition of the guest’s space, use of the washing machine, access to TV and if you will ask for any practical help around the house.
  • Refrain from giving money directly to the guest as unhelpful precedents may be set.
  • The hosting arrangement will be much easier to manage and smoother for all involved if the host is happy to trust the guest with a key although this is not essential straight away.

Supporting hosts

It would be good to offer hosts appropriate induction training before they host an asylum seeker for the first time. There may be experienced hosts in the community who could impart wisdom here or contact NACCOM, a national network of organisations providing accommodation for destitute asylum seekers.As already said, It works best where two or three hosting households (ideally in the same area) share the responsibility for housing a guest so as to provide mutual support, flexibility and provide each other with respite.

It would be good to develop an information pack of daytime activities and details of other support and advice agencies in your local area. However, hosts should not feel obliged to do anything more than sign-post guests to available services.

It would be good to bring hosts together regularly to provide mutual support. Some hosts could provide respite for others.

Expectation on guests

Guests should:

  • provide leaders and hosts with full, up-to-date information and appropriate character references.
  • abide by the house rules as agreed with the host.
  • maintain contact with the Immigration Service and appropriate agencies. Please note, it may be necessary for the guest to provide the host's address to the Immigration Service.

Termination arrangements

Hosts should be free to withdraw from or terminate the hosting at any time. It would, however, be extremely helpful to give advanced notice so the guest can make alternative arrangements.

Hosting can be draining in the long-term so it may be good practise to keep to fixed terms and have breaks in-between hosting periods. Sharing the responsibility for housing a guest between two or three households enables the host to feel in control and enables the arrangement to be more sustainable whilst providing on-going support for the guest.

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Based on a handout by Action Foundation, 13/04/2016

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