ASSIST Sheffield

Challenging asylum destitution

Myra Davis, ASSIST host and volunteer

Mon, 04/22/2013 - 09:25 -- Cath Baldwin

This profile is in memory of Myra who was a founder member of ASSIST and who passed away in May 2014

“It’s an experience that I wouldn’t have been without for all the world, because when you become family, that is something very, very special.”

I’ve had about 30-40 people in my home over the last ten years, some of them long term, some of them short them, all sorts of people from all over the world, and it’s an experience that I wouldn’t have been without for all the world.

There are lots of pockets of need for accommodation that aren’t being met by the night shelters. Providing accommodation is the absolute zenith of importance for ASSIST because it has an enormous impact, enormous! It’s the security of a place to go home to. It’s home. It’s not being on the street, not being passed around like a parcel from this person to that person.

If only people knew how much we’re repaid in feedback and thanks and gratitude! And even if it’s not expressed as such, just seeing people’s lives turned around, you know that you’re doing something useful. And I get so much back out of that, not just because it’s useful. People bring me the world, into my house! I’ve had people from Burundi, Eritrea, China, Iran, Kurdistan, Ethiopia… To be part of that world instead of just being on the sidelines, it is very satisfying. I’m glad to be so totally involved in the world.

I started with one young man way back in our first days. At first I thought “oh my goodness, I’m going to have a young man in my house that I hardly know!”, and he said to me in the car on the way back from meeting him, “don’t worry, Myra, I’ll be alright!”, and he was SO alright! He was a lovely, lovely young man, and he became part of my circle.

Some people just host for a couple of weeks at a time because of family commitments, but my family are grown and left, so my house is much more available than some, so I can do long-term hosting. With some of them we eat together, we decide what we’ll buy together for food, we live quite like family. Others prefer to be quite independent and come and go and just use the house as an address and a sleeping place so they can get out and about, go to the library or whatever. But mostly it’s much more family oriented, around me and the house, doing things together.

All the people that I’ve hosted have been so amazingly patient with their situation, and lovely, lovely people. But if anyone is in trouble, if anyone is behaving wrongly, they are asked to leave, and we have got means of handling that, and hosts are always supported by ASSIST. They certainly wouldn’t have to continue hosting someone they didn’t want to host.

But I’ve never had any problems. It’s always a lot of fun, a lot of laughter. It fills my house with purpose and dreams of the future. But it’s not like it’s all from me, it’s a two-way process that gives me tremendous satisfaction because those people who’ve stayed with me are so generous afterwards with their time and care, both to me and to others.

I have gained so much from it! My life has become enriched to an incredible degree, and I would never have thought that could happen when I welcomed that first young man into my home. I have grown with the experience, very much so. And yes, I think other people can, I know you can. It’s a lovely thing to do.