JRS-UK is set to launch its 'At Home' Hosting Scheme in September, after completing a successful pilot. Through the scheme, hosts - individuals, families and religious communities that can offer short-term accommodation and hospitality - are matched with guests who are destitute asylum seekers known to JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service).
The Jesuit Community in Brixton and Sisters of the Holy Family of St Emilie in Stockwell were the first to host a destitute asylum seeker. The Jesuits welcomed Majok, a young man from Darfur, whose application for refuge was turned down some years ago. Since then Majok has depended on charities like JRS for help with essential living needs. He rarely knows where he will sleep from one week to the next. The Holy Family Sisters were hosts to Beatrice, a Congolese national who has also been made destitute by the asylum process. Both Majok and Beatrice are known to JRS through its Wapping Day Centre which, every Thursday, welcomes over 100 such destitute men and women.
Although the accommodation and hospitality were short - both communities hosted for two months - the pilot showed it to be of great value. For the guest it provided reliable, safe and comfortable accommodation as well as regular healthy meals. Significantly, it transmitted an essential message of concern, care and friendship; often after years of destitution, with no access to work or statutory support, hospitality and friendship can restore confidence and help repair broken self-esteem and dignity.
The host communities also valued JRS 'At Home'. One of the communities, in evaluating the hosting experience, said it had been '…blessed and life giving'. It had '…opened our eyes to the plight of people in such difficult situations.' Both communities looked forward to offering hospitality again through JRS 'At Home'.
"We recognise that opening your home or community to a person you don't know and who probably comes from a very different background and culture may feel daunting," JRS-UK Director Louise Zanré acknowledges. "But we hope that, with support, the experience can be rich and rewarding. To help make it so, JRS researched existing schemes to gather good practice; a procedure was devised to provide support at every stage of the hosting, both to the Host and to the Guest."
JRS has produced a Handbook, which provides useful and clear information about every step of the process, details the eligibility criteria and outlines the application process, as well as offering tips to minimise misunderstanding. A great deal of on-going support is also offered by the JRS 'At Home' coordinator, before, during and after the experience.
If you would like to find out more about it, please contact: Louise Zanré, JRS-UK, Hurtado Jesuit Centre, 2 Chandler Street, London, E1W 2QT. Tel: 020 7488 7310, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com