Hosting destitute migrants – the final safety net?

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 - 3:12pm

For homeless and destitute migrants that are ineligible for any welfare support, is there any way they can be supported to move away from a life on the streets? 

Action Hosting

Vicki Harris, Hosting Coordinator from Action Foundation in Newcastle, talks through the top five tips in setting up a community-hosting scheme for destitute migrants in the North East of England.

Hosting schemes

Like many cities in the UK, Newcastle is responding to rising levels of homeless migrants, with around 200 vulnerable non-EEA destitute migrants in need of accommodation on any night. Many have either had their claims for asylum refused, or are struggling to provide a place of safety for themselves while they try to resolve their immigration status.

Across the UK, many different hosting schemes have been set up to respond to the needs of refugees or asylum seekers in this situation. However, what all the schemes have in common is an enthusiasm to help the most vulnerable people in our society, and a willingness to share practice and experience with others.

Here at Action Foundation, we employed a full-time hosting coordinator to set up a hosting scheme from scratch called Action hosting. We decided to fund a full-time post to set this up, so we could ensure best practice.

Are you looking to set up your own scheme? Here are our five key reflections from the process:

1. Host are volunteers and need to be treated as such

Hosting is an informal arrangement between a guest and host facilitated by a hosting organisation. However, hosts are volunteers as they are acting in your organisations name without pay, and so you need to have procedures set up for them to be treated as such. Policies for: problem solving (for dealing with complaints and discipline issues), equal opportunities, safeguarding, confidentiality and a risk assessment approach are needed. Volunteers need relevant training, regular support and supervision.

The role of the coordinator is to take the host on their journey to hosting. People want to do something to help, but they need to be assessed, informed and prepared, so they can make the right decisions about their placements and guests, within the boundaries of your organisations policies.

2. Who are your guests and what support do they need?

Guests could be asylum seekers, refused asylum seekers or refugees, and different hosting schemes have different criteria of who they will help. Who you decide to help will depend on who in your area has the most need, which agencies are working with that client group, and what support they can get. It is important the guest can access support work, so that their situation can be assessed and future options considered.

It’s really important to state that hosting will never be able to help those with the most complex needs. If we are placing guests in people’s homes on a temporary basis, we must make sure this is done safely for everyone, and consider the impact on the hosts of a guests’ situation. Hosting can only be a short-term and temporary solution for guests.

There could be an issue around the gender of guests. In Newcastle, most of our guests are male, with only a handful of refused females. Our scheme has a policy where we will not place a male guest in an all-female host household and vice versa. This has created a challenge for placements, as we have single female hosts and some of our married couples who only want to help females and a shortage of female guests.

3. Why assessing risk is important

Action Foundation is an award winning charity that has been running for over 10 years. Reputation wise, we have a lot to lose if something went wrong, and our public liability insurance requests a thorough level of risk assessments to cover our areas of work.  It is important that we keep hosts and guests safe, and that everyone has confidence in the scheme to look after them and advise them properly.

For hosts, we carry out a home assessment, property safety check, ask for references, complete DBS checks and deliver a full days training. For guests, we ask for a referral form, complete a face to face assessment, complete a police check, and speak to other agencies about the client’s needs. We have had to decline referrals for clients due to information we have had from the police or due to complex health needs that could not be managed and supported in a host’s home.

4. You need a way to keep track of where guests are, and when hosts are available

You need paperwork and forms to run the hosting scheme, and ensure that these are with the procedures that were already embedded within your organisation. Once the scheme is up and running you need a way to keep track of host enquiries, applications, guest assessments, and placements. Host files and client files need to be stored in line with data protection legislation.

Knowing when hosts are available, what criteria of guests can help and when a guest needs to be moved can be quite a juggling act and requires flexibility. We created a clear database to record and track this information. A key to a successful scheme is having an efficient way to store this information on who is free and for how long.

Keeping a record of the number of placements, the number of nights’ guests have been placed, how many hosts you have, how many enquiries have been made, how many guests have been referred enables you to demonstrate the impact of your service and apply for future funding.

5. The real power of hosting

Hosting is about finding new ways to help those who are homeless, destitute and have very few options. For refused asylum seekers, there is very little statutory provision, apart for those with the most complex needs, who may get help through local authorities. The basics of hosting is to provide somewhere warm and safe for guests to stay on a temporary basis while they try to resolve their status.

However, hosting is about more than just this. It is about harnessing the desire for individuals to make a difference to people’s lives who need help and support. It is about building a grassroots network of people with common values and helping to raise awareness in communities of the issue of destitution, homelessness, and the needs of asylum seekers.

As well as the data and numbers you record for hosting, it is important to collect stories on the impact of hosting. Hosting is about more than numbers, it is about the difference it has on someone’s life.

“Before I was hosted I was anxious about the future, I didn’t sleep, I was feeling very depressed. I wasn’t feeling happy and I didn’t know what to do. I was unsure about who could help me. But since going to the host, I sleep very well, straight from the first night”.

For more information on Action Hosting, please visit their website: https://actionfoundation.org.uk/action-hosting/

Homeless Link, in partnership with the No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) and Housing Justice, have produced the first ever Hosting Toolkit, a ‘how to’ guide to providing bed spaces to vulnerable destitute migrants with no access to welfare support. Funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the intention of the toolkit is to enable the development of hosting as part of a wider ambition to prevent and reduce migrant destitution.

To download the toolkit for free, please visit the resources page of the Strategic Alliance on Migrant Destitution.

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Vicki Harris

Vicki Harris

Hosting Coordinator at Action Foundation

Vicki is the Hosting Coordinator from Action Foundation and is based in Newcastle