ASSIST supports men and women who are not entitled to any form of government funded support or accommodation and are not allowed to work because their claim for asylum has been turned down. We do not work with families who have children, as they are entitled to Home Office support. Many of the people we support are practically homeless, often ‘sofa-surfing’ between friends or sleeping in the ASSIST night-shelter.
Providing a warm, safe environment therefore is an extremely generous and meaningful way of supporting a destitute asylum seeker and can be a rewarding experience for both you and your guest. ASSIST operates two kinds of hosting schemes: one for clients who use our night-shelter during the week, but have nowhere else to stay on weekends when our shelter is closed, and a long-term hosting scheme. New hosts will almost always start off as ‘weekend-hosts’.
Do I have to live in Sheffield to be a host?
Yes, in order to become an ASSIST host, you would have to live in or close to Sheffield. Our clients can choose to receive a Sheffield bus pass as part of their support package from ASSIST, so we can only accommodate them in places which they can reach by public transport.
The majority of asylum seekers we support use services such as solicitors, GPs, hospitals and food banks in Sheffield, and many have links to faith or other community groups in the city, which is why it isn’t practical to house them outside of Sheffield.
If you are interested in becoming a host, but are unsure whether your location would be suitable, please get in touch with us to discuss this further.
But wouldn’t I break the Law by hosting a refused asylum seeker?
No. Refused asylum-seekers are legally present in the country and have papers giving them “temporary admission”. It is the Home Office’s responsibility to remove those who they believe should not remain in the UK.
It is only an offence to knowingly harbour someone who is on the run having committed a crime, or having escaped from a detention centre.
How long would I be required to host for?
Periods of hosting can vary from two days to six months at a time. ASSIST runs three different types of hostings:
- Weekend hosting for clients who are using our emergency night-shelter from Monday to Saturday, but need a place to stay between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning.
- Emergency hosting for women, which means housing a female ASSIST client for anything between 2 and 4 weeks, to enable us to find a more long-term accommodation solution for her.
- Long-term hosting which can last for anything between four weeks and up to a maximum of six months, during which the guest lives with the host, while receiving support from ASSIST with moving on his/her asylum case.
What would be expected of me as a host?
We encourage all our hosts to organise their hosting of asylum seekers in the way that they feel most comfortable with and which suits them and their lifestyle. The bottom-line is that we expect our hosts to offer their guest a bed in a separate room, access to washing facilities, and, in the case of emergency or long-term hosts, access to food or cooking facilities.
If your guest is staying for more than just a weekend, giving a key to him/her would be practical. However, we always encourage hosts to only hand over keys once they feel comfortable doing so.
Almost all of our clients value the hospitality shown by their hosts and enjoy being part of everyday life. However, you are not expected to entertain your guest. Sometimes hosts offer guests to take part in weekend activities, such as family outings, but this is entirely optional.
In the case of longer hosting arrangements, you are also not expected to act as your guests’ caseworker – in fact, we discourage hosts from doing so. There is a dedicated ASSIST team to follow-up our clients’ cases, and you can bring any concerns you may have about your guest’s situation to their attention via the volunteers who support you while you are hosting, and they will be able to feed back to you about any developments.
In almost all cases, your guest will receive financial assistance from ASSIST, often also including a bus-pass. Although our financial support is minimal, we strongly encourage hosts not to give cash to their guests.
If you have started off as a weekend or emergency host and feel comfortable having guests around, you may want to consider becoming a long-term host for one of our clients. There is, however, no expectation for you to host somebody long-term. If this is something you would like to consider further down the line, then time scales to suit you can be discussed with the ASSIST team.
How does ASSIST vet guests before they come and stay with me?
We will only refer ASSIST clients to stay with you once we have satisfied ourselves to the best of our ability, that they would be suitable to be hosted by you.
In the case of weekend hosts, we liaise very closely with our night-shelter team who will flag up any concerns about any of the shelter residents’ behaviour. In addition to that, clients who have not been hosted before will initially always be hosted by so-called ‘key hosts’, who are very experienced weekend hosts. Only once a client has been successfully hosted by a key hosts twice, will we refer him/her to any of the other weekend hosts.
In the case of long-term hosting, the guest would typically have previously stayed at the ASSIST night-shelter and will be well-known to us.
How often do I need to host?
We can organise hosting to fit in with your availability. As a weekend-host, we would expect you to be available at least once every 6 weeks, but we fully understand that hosts’ availability will change throughout the year.
If you sign-up to be an emergency or long-term host, our volunteers will regularly check-in with you regarding your availability and send out email alerts when a place is needed. We continue to recruit additional hosts almost all the time, to make sure that if you can’t be available to host, someone else will!
What would a typical weekend with a guest look like (weekend hosts only)?
Hosts usually meet their guests in Sheffield city centre on Saturday evening and take him/her back to their house. In some cases, where the guest knows their way around the city or has stayed with the host before, they can make their own way.
We recommend explaining some of the basic house rules and household routines over a cup of tea or a light evening meal. If you are OK for your guest to use the television or any other electrical appliances you can explain how these work. It is also a good idea to agree on the times that the guest is supposed to leave the house on Sunday and on Monday morning at this stage.
Your guest may well want to enjoy the privacy of having a private room for the weekend and retire early. Some guests may want to stay and chat for a bit. Some hosts enjoy such opportunities, but you are not expected to entertain your guest, so it is up to you whether you want to encourage this.
In most cases your guest will be out and about on Sunday and come back to your house on Sunday afternoon, or whatever time you have agreed with them. It is completely up to you whether you want to offer your guest to stay at home on Sunday. Either way, you should clearly explain to your guest what the arrangements are.
Most clients, however, are used to being out and about on the Sunday. Clients can have a free meal at Victoria Hall’s Sunday Centre, entrance from George Street from 1:30 (meal being served at 3 pm).
Most weekend hosts ask their guest to leave the house on Monday morning. It is a good idea to remind them of when you would like them to leave, on Sunday evening.
What support can I expect from ASSIST?
We have a dedicated team of volunteers whose task it is to recruit and support our hosts.
If you have agreed to be a host on a specific weekend, a member of our team will contact you on Friday to give you the name and other information about your guest, including whether or not they have special dietary needs or don’t speak English well. If necessary, we will also give you the name and number of someone who could help you communicate with your guest, if you get stuck language-wise.
Long-term and emergency hosts will be supported by a dedicated member of the ASSIST accommodation team. Your ‘host buddy’ will remain in regular contact with you before, during and after each hosting placement, to make sure that you have got all the information and support you need. If at any point before, during or after hosting you have any questions or concerns, he/she be on the other end of a phone line for you.
We also organise at least two host social evenings each year, which have proven to be useful occasions to talk to other hosts, learn from each others’ experience and find out what is going on in ASSIST generally.
In addition to an initial induction for new hosts and ongoing support, hosts also have access to training opportunities for all ASSIST volunteers. Our ‘Asylum the Basics’ session teaches you all you need to know about the UK’s asylum system. Other recent training courses have included First Aid in Mental Health and Managing Difficult Situations.
You will also receive a small financial contribution towards the costs you have incurred for hosting an ASSIST client.
I’m interested, how do I apply?
If you are interested in becoming an ASSIST host, please contact our office.
We will arrange for two of our volunteers to visit you in your home to further talk through some of the practicalities of hosting. This will also give us a chance to look at public transport links to your house or check whether your room would be suitable for clients with mobility issues. Please kindly note that, as we are working almost exclusively through volunteers, it can take a while until we get get back to you, so please bear with us.
You can reach us by phone (0114 275 4960), by going to Contact us and use the form to send an email choosing the category Accommodation for asylum seekers, or by emailing us direct at accommodate [at] assistsheffield.org.uk. Please mention in your email whether you are interested in weekend or long term hosting.
After the visit, you will be asked to complete an online volunteer application, that should include the names of two people who can provide a short reference for you.
As a final step, you will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and complete a DBS (formerly known as CRB) check. DBS checks are done in complete confidentiality. Once these steps are completed a member of our team will be in touch to check your first availability for hosting.