Information for hosts
Opening your door to a stranger may seem daunting, but Refugees at Home is here to offer support along the way, and we can connect you to a large community of hosts able to offer their experience and advice.
Hosting can last for as little or as long as you’d like. You tell us who you can host, and how long for.
There is a link to the hosting application form at the bottom of this page.
The application process
Before applying to host, please read the information on this page and discuss it with the other members of your household. For hosting to work, it is essential that everyone living in your home is fully on board with hosting a refugee.
The information on this page applies to all hosts. If you are hosting someone from Ukraine, please also read our Ukraine sponsorship information sheet. As there are government-led schemes to support Ukrainians we approach these placements slightly differently.
There is link to our host application form at the bottom of this page. Please provide as many details as possible. Once you have submitted your form, a member of our Outreach team may contact you with further questions, particularly if you are in an area of the UK where we don’t have many hosts, because we will need to find out about local services and support for refugees. Otherwise, they will pass your application on to one of our experienced home visitors so that they can arrange a mutually convenient time to visit you, either in person or online.
The home visit
The home visit is an important part of hosting with Refugees at Home. It’s a chance for you to ask questions and talk through the practicalities of hosting, and for us to know more about who you might be able to host and what accommodation and any other support you can offer.
After the home visit we will contact your referees to provide a character reference for you. Once these are back with us, you will be approved as a host. If you can let your referees know in advance that we will be in contact, this can help speed up the process.
- Please read the information on this page before applying to host
- It is important that everyone in your household is on board
- The home visit is a chance to learn more and ask questions
- As part of your application we will ask for two character references
What happens next
After your application to host has been approved it will be passed on to our Placement team. The Placement team is responsible for liaising between guests and approved hosts, and they will help match you with a suitable guest.
It’s hard to say how long this will take. If you are flexible about who you can host and are based in one of our high-demand areas such as Manchester, Glasgow or London, it’s very likely we will be in contact immediately. In other areas it may take a little longer.
Whilst you are waiting to hear from us, we will ask you to sign up to our portal, which is used to share information between hosts and guests, and make sure you keep your details updated. The portal link is in the footer of the website, and you can find out how to sign up in the information sheet below.
About our guests
At Refugees at Home, we offer hosting to those with refugee status or those currently engaged with the asylum system in the UK.
You can read more about who we host on our Information sheet about our guests, which includes an explanation about immigration status and further information about the demographics of our guests. We have also produced a glossary of some of the key terms you hear being used about the asylum process.
It’s extremely important that hosts do not place guests under any obligation to share the reason for their journey to the UK with them. You may find that some guests will tell you about their background, but this must be their choice. Asking questions about their past can be triggering for our guests, many of whom will have fled war and torture. They will have to face a great deal of questioning during the process of claiming asylum, and it can be very distressing to have to relive particular experiences.
The Home Office is responsible for investigating whether an asylum seeker’s claim is valid, and we never seek to replicate this role. Refugees at Home believe that everyone has the right to seek asylum, and that people don’t leave their home countries for no reason.
Most of our guests will have been referred to us by other charities and organisations supporting them, although some referrals may come directly from potential guests themselves.
All referrals go through our triage process, and the types of questions we ask at this stage are:
- How urgent is this referral?
- Is hosting needed? Is the guest entitled to access other support?
- Does the guest have a realistic ‘move on’ plan from hosting? Can they access support to help them achieve this?
- Are there any concerns that we might have for hosting this person? (for example, do they have severe mental health concerns, or are not able to provide references)
- Will the guest benefit from being hosted? We will never do anything that causes harm to guests or hosts.
We ask our hosts to trust in our process of assessing the suitability of guests for hosting. We have years of experience, and we would not approach you to host someone until our checks are complete. If we are unable to accept the referral, we will signpost guests or referrers to other services who may be able to assist.
Mental health and trauma
Many of our guests will have experienced extremely stressful and difficult challenges, which can manifest in mental ill health. We will not host someone who has severe mental health issues. However, guests may have a certain level of mental health concerns: fleeing your home country and going through the asylum process in the UK is going to have an impact.
We may host guests who have or are experiencing depression, PTSD, anxiety and many other mental health issues. We always ask how this manifests and how it may affect their daily lives and what support they are receiving, and we will share this information with hosts. It is important that our guests are well supported by their referrers and other professionals if appropriate.
As a host, you may find it useful to be aware of the signs of trauma, the team at Trauma Treatment International have produced a short guide on recognising these.
It is not the role of the host to diagnose or assist in mental health support for their guests. If you have concerns about the mental health of your guest, please speak to your Placement Coordinator.
- Guests are refugees and asylum seekers with no statutory support in the UK
- We assess all guests to find out if they are suitable for hosting
- Please be sensitive: do not ask guests about their backgrounds, or the reasons for their journey to the UK
- Be aware that your guest will have been through traumatic experiences
Making a placement
If we accept a guest’s referral we will begin to look for a host as quickly as possible. We match the guest’s preferred location against your availability and preferences as a host. Location and access to support and networks is often the most important aspect of hosting to a guest so we begin with this. We keep in mind the nature of the host’s household and their preferences to host, and we also have some rules we follow, for example, we never place a single female guest with a male-only household.
If you are matched with a guest, our Placement team will contact you initially by phone or email with some background information about the potential placement, when it is needed and for what duration. If you are available and comfortable to proceed, we will then share more information about the guest via our secure portal. We recommend that you talk to everyone in your household about the potential guest. If you would like to know more information, just ask your Placement Coordinator.
Preparing for arrival
If the placement is to go ahead, your Placement Coordinator will pass on your home address, email and phone number to the guest or their referrer so that they can get in touch with you.
Please let your guest or their referrer know how to get to you via public transport, and what time you will be available for their arrival. Hosts tell us that being clear on the latest arrival time you will accept is essential!
Sometimes, arranged placements don’t go ahead. We understand that there can be a level of inconvenience involved in this after a host has prepared themselves. Unfortunately this can be unavoidable, and it can help to remember that it is often the result of a positive development for the guest who needed the placement. We will communicate any change of plans as soon as possible.
Welcoming your guest
Some hosts have told us preparing a welcome pack in advance with key information in both written and visual formats is helpful. We all have those things in our home that need instruction; the front door that needs locking twice, the wifi password, the bathroom window which needs to be opened whilst having a shower. Don’t expect your guest to take this information in immediately. You can read advice from existing hosts in our Advice for New Hosts, and Hosting Families with Teenagers.
If you’re hosting a guest who does not have any, or limited, English reading or speaking knowledge, make sure you read our guide for preparing for them.
Some guests may be arriving with very little possessions, or money. If you’re able, providing a small bag of toiletries, a clean towel and some access to basics (tea, coffee, milk, fruit, cereal) may be very welcome. Helping them connect to your internet will mean they can assist them in staying in contact with their support networks.
The most important thing to remember is to take things slowly and at your own pace. Your guest is going to be taking in a lot of information, and they may already be anxious about meeting you and accepting your help. Hosts tell us that often the very first thing guests do is sleep for a long time, staying with you may be the safest they have felt in some time.
- Your guest, or their referrer, will be in touch to arrange a suitable arrival time
- It’s helpful to prepare a welcome pack, and let your guests know how things in your house work
- There are lots of online tools to help if your guest does not speak good English
- Take things slowly – your guest may be feeling anxious about meeting you
During the stay
Supporting a guest
Every guest and every host is different, and the amount of support you are willing to offer to the person you’re hosting is absolutely your decision. Some hosts provide simply a room, access to a bathroom, and a space in the kitchen where guests can keep and prepare their food. Other hosts share meals, visits out and conversations with their guests. It will take time to work through the relationship you’re willing to offer.
We have produced two brochures on Advice for New Hosts and Hosting Families with Teens which contain lots of tips from some of our more experienced hosts.
Setting your ‘house rules’
Having clear boundaries and ‘house rules’ from the outset will help you and your guest. ‘Rules’ feels like a strange word to use when you’re about to welcome someone to your home, but providing these will help you live comfortably together. Decide your house rules in advance, making sure everyone in your household is on board with these.
You might want to consider:
- What time is the latest you are happy for a guest to return each day, or if you want them to let you know if they won’t be staying overnight at any point
- When the guest can use the washing machine
- What rooms the guest can use and when
- Whether your guest can invite people over
- How you will arrange access to their room whilst they are staying, for example, if the boiler is in their room. Having privacy is essential to guests, and we suggest you agree in advance that you enter only with permission/notice
- Where in the kitchen the guest can keep their food
- If you wish for the guest to not eat or prepare certain food (for example, your kitchen might be halal or kosher)
- Arrangements about smoking
- Are you happy to prepare and share meals together
- Anything you need the guests to know about your pets
The power balance
Refugees and asylum seekers are, by definition, vulnerable. That doesn’t mean they aren’t articulate, intelligent, determined human beings with personal agency; but they are also in a complicated legal and personal situation, often having endured very difficult circumstances that has left them with very complex things to work through; and all this in an alien country and culture.
Please be mindful of the power imbalance between you and your guest. Take particular care about developing any relationship beyond that of host and guest, and think through what consent might mean to the guest.
Sexual relationships are never appropriate and will result in placements ending and hosts being removed from our register. Very intense friendships can be problematic too. You might be making a very genuine offer of help or friendship, but your guest may well feel very powerless and obliged to agree as a result.
Do not enter into business relationships or any financial agreements with your guest. We believe that these are highly unlikely to be appropriate and there are significant legal risks if hosts accept any rent or payment which might be construed as rent from guests.
It is important to be mindful of your guest’s financial situation. Many guests will have no, or limited access to finance. We do not ask hosts to give money to guests. If you can provide some meals or travel cards that can be helpful, but we appreciate that not everyone can do this.
R@H offers a bursary of £30 a week to supplement the cost of hosting where a guest is not in receipt of any funds. Please read our Finances information sheet for further guidance on finances and details of how to claim the bursary.
How we support you
Our Placement team will keep in contact with you, and either your guest or their referrer, throughout the placement period. We’ll be checking in on how you are feeling, and if there are any issues; you can use us for a sounding board, to raise concerns or to simply tell us how things are going.
We are only ever a phone call or message away during the placement, so if there is anything on your mind, do just get in contact with us.
- Clear house rules are important for a good hosting relationship and will help both you and your guest feel comfortable
- Think about issues such as privacy for you and your guest, the timings of your household, sharing meals, smoking, pets
- Be mindful of the power imbalance between you and your guest
- Our Placement team is on hand to support you throughout your guest’s stay
The end of a placement
A placement can end for any number of reasons. The best situations are when guests find the accommodation that will offer them security, or it might be that they enter accommodation provided by a council or local authority.
We do not offer hosting as an alternative to asylum accommodation as we have found that once this support is voluntarily withdrawn from, it’s incredibly difficult to get it again. On occasion, we may move a guest from one placement to another. When this happens, we will ask the original host for their recommendation on whether the guest should be re-hosted through us.
You may need to end the placement you are no longer available. We completely understand that you may be going on holiday, or having other guests to stay. It’s incredibly helpful to have advance notice of this so please do tell your Placement Coordinator as soon as possible.
Once your placement has ended, you may wish to have a break before hosting again, or may be ready straight away to host someone else, do let your Placement Coordinator know. We all use the same database, so your availability will be shared with the whole team.
If things go wrong
Occasionally things can go wrong. If they do, it is generally about boundaries or misunderstandings. Some hosting arrangements come under strain because the guest is not sticking to the household ‘rules’. When this happens, it is up to the guest to adjust to the household, not the other way around and we will ask the guest’s referrer to help with this. In most cases problems can be resolved with a bit of patience and explanation.
If things are not working out, please talk to your Placement Coordinator – we can offer advice and support. If you need the placement to end, just tell us and we can make this happen. Where there are more difficult challenges we will intervene and support the hosts and guests immediately, if necessary asking the guest to leave that day.
If you have concerns about your or someone else’s safety then you should dial 999.
A member of the Refugees at Home team is available 7 days a week, but we are not an emergency service. If something happens outside these hours we will do our best to respond but may not always be able to find a solution until the following day when referrers are available.
The quickest way to record your emergency with us is to email firstname.lastname@example.org
READY TO SIGN UP?
All the supplementary information sheets mentioned on this page can also be found via the links below: