How it works
Room for Refugees is a discreet and confidential hosting network providing safe matching of refugees and asylum seekers with households across the UK and in the US. Our network enables those moved by compassion and a sense of justice to offer shelter to someone in need, and brings hosts together to make their local communities refugee-friendly and aware.
“Room for Refugees enables those moved by compassion and a sense of justice to offer shelter to someone in need.”
Frequently asked questions
Tell me about your charity
Room for Refugees is run by Positive Action in Housing, a registered Scottish charity (SC027577) based in Glasgow. In 2002, we responded to the problem of destitution by pioneering a refugee hosting network in Scotland. The network provides short to medium-term emergency and humanitarian shelter. The overall aim is to help people seeking refuge to rebuild their lives with the shelter and pastoral support of our hosts.
Tell me more about Room for Refugees
It is our refugee hosting network. We began the programme in response to the increasing numbers of destitute refugees coming to our drop-in surgeries. People were being left without their basic human needs e.g. food, shelter, financial means, emergency hostels. They are refused permission to work and are without recourse to public funds. The hostile environment policy of enforced destitution as a way of forcing people to leave the UK is not working. More and more genuine refugees are being fast tracked into destitution.
The Network went viral in September 2015 following the ‘Refugee Crisis’. We received thousands of phone calls in a day. The network makes a difference by giving vulnerable people the breathing space to assess their options and secure the support needed to gain a positive decision on their asylum claim or be granted ‘Leave to Remain’.
Click here for the latest statistics including the numbers of hosts, casework organisations, and the number of nights of shelter provided.
How do I offer a spare room or shelter?
If you can offer a spare room or empty property, please complete the online form at this link to be added to our register. If you live in a busy area, we will then contact you via email or phone to arrange an introductory phone call. If you’re in a quieter area, we might not be in touch straight away, but if you have some questions and queries you can contact us directly by emailing email@example.com
Who are we trying to assist?
- People who have been granted refugee status following a successful asylum application (or others in similar circumstances who have been granted Leave to Remain in the UK). New refugees get 28 days to leave their Home Office accommodation and this is usually isn’t enough to secure benefits/employment and secure housing
- Asylum seekers (including unaccompanied children) meaning people with an ongoing application for asylum. This includes people who have arrived in the UK informally and reported to the Home Office.
- People who have been initially refused asylum or leave to remain and are appealing the decision or preparing a fresh case.
- Other vulnerable migrant groups including victims of human trafficking and those held wrongly in immigration detention.
Our work does not discriminate and includes people from over 50 different countries.
How do you match guests and hosts?
We accept referrals from partnered refugee aid organisations, local authorities and caseworkers.
We then identify potential hosts depending on the needs of the refugee individual, family or child. We take into account the availability and household composition of hosts and the local connections of the person needing shelter, e.g. support networks, college, lawyer, reporting requirements.
If your name comes up as a potential match we will contact you via email. At this point you will have the opportunity to tell us whether you have availability to host this individual or family. We will never pressure you to take someone in.
If you can take someone, a named caseworker will contact you to discuss the situation and arrange a pre-hosting meeting. Occasionally, in an extreme emergency this is not possible and we may ask you to take someone in more quickly as long as you are comfortable and we are satisfied that the arrangement will be safe.
This face-to-face meeting with the host(s), guest(s) and caseworker is a chance for everyone to meet for the first time, discuss points and ask any questions - this might be asking about daily routines, your local area, the estimated timescale hosting is needed, and the level of support you can offer
How safe is the programme?
The guests are, if anything, more vulnerable as they are in a strange country with limited resources and contacts and possibly limited English language. However, we take steps at every stage of the process to ensure the programme is safe for our hosts, guests and caseworkers:
The Referral Process
We understand that you may feel apprehensive taking an unknown person into your home. That’s why we only take referrals from registered caseworkers and only contact our hosts when we have done a full assessment of the referral and risks and we are comfortable that that person(s) is suitable for hosting.
Caseworkers are employees at agencies such as the British Red Cross, Refugee Council, Freedom from Torture and have to be accepted for an account with us before applying. They are required to know their client(s) well (min. 3 months) and assess their suitability for hosting before making a referral.
We cannot accommodate people with a history of violent or abusive behaviour, severe mental health issues or substance misuse. Where the client involves vulnerable adults or children, we look for additional risk assessments and screening. Example: the Social Work Department carried out their own checks to satisfy themselves that our host was suitable to accommodate their client who was pregnant and had a young child. In working with caseworkers, we will accommodate additional safety checks.
Deciding to Host
Of course it's your home and your decision. That’s why we usually prefer that you meet a potential guest at an arranged pre-hosting meeting before you decide if you can host. We encourage hosts and guests to take the time they need to make a decision before a hosting starts.
Remember, the person is a guest in your home so you would take the usual precautions as for any new guest. We experience very few problems but if you are overly nervous or worried then perhaps hosting is not for you. However, our experience tells us that as long as we carefully match and minimise risk then most times everything will go well.
We screen each host application and if you’re in a busy area of the country, we will likely arrange an introductory phone call to briefly discuss your reasons for hosting and your eligibility for hosting. We will then invite you for a Host and Home Assessment. This is conducted with one of our team on Zoom to assess the household, local area and home for hosting. This usually takes 45 minutes to 1 hour. It is important that you let us know about any other household members (lodgers, guests, family, pets!) so we can take this into account when we’re finding a match for you. It is also important that they are all content to take in a guest. We need to check that you have thought through issues which may arise or if there will be any house rules.
We also want to ensure that you are not expecting rent or services that could be considered work from your guest in return for their room. It is illegal for asylum seekers to work, or provide any service that could be seen as work in exchange for money or benefits. Whilst guests take part in household activities such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, cat-sitting it is vital that your guest(s) are not required to do this as ‘payment’ for the accommodation provided. For the long read on asylum seekers' right to work here’s the Home Office guidance.
We reserve the right to de-register hosts, guests and caseworkers at any time during the screening process. In exceptional circumstances, misconduct during the hosting process may also result in de-registration.
Privacy and Confidentiality
The signed agreement and photos are for our internal records only. We will disclose only relevant information about guests to hosts, and vice versa, in strictest confidence.
Okay, I signed up. When will you offer me a guest?
We work on a referral basis. Once someone is referred to us and is in need, we may contact you if our system identifies you as a suitable match in your area. And then we will get in touch and check your availability and commence further screening.
Why have you not contacted me before?
Because we have not yet found a suitable match for you. This is most likely due to your location, our service is most in demand in large cities and towns. Our network is still growing and there are some parts of the country that we don’t work in yet. However, we always need new volunteers prepared to welcome people into their homes.
What if we live far from a main city?
Although most refugees and asylum seekers live in or close to the main cities like London, Glasgow, Manchester. Sometimes we use rural hosts for respite hosting.
We are increasingly seeing referrals from smaller towns. If you think there might be a need for hosting in your area, let your local refugee community organisations know about us or get in touch with us firstname.lastname@example.org
Will you check up on me?
Yes! Our team and the caseworker are there to support you and your guest throughout the hosting placement. We will check up on you in the first few days and if you are hosting for more than one month we will be in touch each month to ask how things are going. If you have any questions, queries, issues or just want to chat about the hosting you can get in touch with our team.
What about house rules?
Your house, your rules! We encourage hosts to be reasonable in their house rules but in our experience hosting works best if you are upfront about what is acceptable in your home. If you cannot bear smoking, say so. If you don’t allow shoes in the house, or expect help with the washing up if you have cooked a meal, say so. Do you have particular concerns about laundry, the treatment of the cat, vegetarianism, loud music, not eating pork or the use of halal meat? It's best to have these clear at the start.
The pre-hosting meeting is a great opportunity to tease these sorts of issues out and you should write your specific house rules in the hosting agreement and make sure guests, hosts and caseworkers have read and understood these before the hosting starts.
There will inevitably be an adjustment process as you and your guest get used to each other — be patient and communicate. The caseworker and our team are always here to help if needed.
What happens after a guest arrives?
The first day is always going to be a bit strange! When the caseworker has settled in your guest and left you together, try and give them some space to unpack and settle in. Make sure they know how things work (e.g. cooker, shower, tv).
If your guest is new to your local area it might be worth showing them where the local services are such as the library, GP, local transport links.
Each guest is different, or experiencing different things when they move in. Some guests might want to be alone, especially if they’ve come from a shelter or sofa-surfing where they haven’t had their own space. Try to be welcoming in the early days, but go about your usual life so a guest can get a feel for how each day goes.
How long am I expected to host for?
This is up to you! Hostings can be anything from a few nights to a few years! It all depends on the need of the guest and your circumstances. As a guide, we usually ask hosts to commit to a minimum of one month with a one week trial. After that we extend hostings on a ‘rolling’ monthly basis, getting in touch with you and the caseworker each month to check things are still going well.
- Some people do emergency hosting - for one night to a week. This is usually very short notice and you will probably not have the opportunity to meet your guest in advance. These are emergency placements, often of people who would otherwise be on the street for the night, weekend or longer.
- Some hosts offer respite hosting of a few weeks. This might be in an out-of-town location providing accommodation to a guest if their current host needs their room back temporarily.
Regardless of the time you can host, we will not pressure you to keep hosting. We understand that for whatever reason it may not be convenient to host someone at certain times of the year or different occasions so we will fit around your schedule. Circumstances also change and this is perfectly understandable.
What if it’s not working out?
Hosting is a voluntary arrangement and works because (with the exception of children) we are matching consenting and informed adults who will take responsibility for their continuing relationship.
If problems do occur, we are always available and work hard to resolve any that do arise quickly. Our team and the caseworker are there to support you and your guest through the whole process. A little bit of communication goes a long way, and a lot of issues can be resolved during a hosting.
If you feel the hosting needs to end for whatever reason, you just need to tell them and/or the caseworker. It can be tough to ask someone to leave but it’s a voluntary arrangement and guests know they do not have a right to stay. Unless there is a critical/safeguarding reason for you wanting someone out immediately, we would ask you to give a few days or preferably a few weeks notice so we can try and find another placement.
Remember, safe and successful hosting depends on following procedures and having open and regular communication between guest, host and caseworker.
What support will the person need from their host?
Hosting is about providing safe shelter, we don’t expect more than that of hosts. Caseworkers may provide the client with a small amount of money or refer them to food banks. We ask that you share basic food items (e.g. bread, butter, milk, tea, laundry detergent) with your guest but please do not feel under pressure to do this.
You are not expected to be with them all the time. In an ideal arrangement both the volunteer and guest go about their own daily business with relative independence. A lot of our guests are already well-supported by local charities and keep busy attending activities, groups, english classes and appointments.
Any additional support you want to provide is up to you.
We ask that hosts do not concern themselves with their guest’s legal situation or with their future accommodation as this is something that is between the guest and the caseworker.
Most of our guests are destitute, are not permitted to work and have no access to public funds. If you can provide some food or meals, that's really helpful. Some hosts provide travel cards/Oysters too. This helps your guest to maintain contacts, to get to appointments and not to be isolated in your home all the time. You can also donate to our Emergency Relief Fund here, but we ask hosts not to give money directly to their guest(s).
If you feel your guest needs extra support, financial or otherwise, you should let the caseworker and/or our team know. We don’t encourage hosts to provide guests with money so please raise this with the caseworker and/or our team if your guest needs financial support.
What if they don’t speak English?
Most clients do speak some English but if not, the caseworker will arrange to have a pre-hosting meeting with an interpreter. If this isn’t possible because the hosting is arranged at short notice, we will provide you with an interpreter’s phone number.
For day to day communication, try Google Translate downloaded to your smartphone.
If a guest doesn’t speak much English, they’ve probably faced this problem before since arriving in the UK! A lot of guests will already use google translate.
Can I leave my guest in my house when I go out?
Yes! We encourage dignity, mutual respect and trust. Most hosts provide a guest with a key to their home after they have developed some trust, and a lot of hosts leave guests in their home when they go on holiday.
Our guests are aware that they are guests in your home, and that there should be minimum disruption to your schedule. Likewise, we ask our hosts to understand the situation of guests - a lot of guests have busy days attending appointments, classes and activities. We ask that people respect each other's schedules but keep in touch about their whereabouts.
What do I do if I go away?
This is up to you and will depend on your relationship with your guest and the time you are away for. A lot of our hosts will leave a guest at home when they go away but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that then you should contact the caseworker and our team and we will arrange a respite hosting for your guest.
We worry that our guest is too quiet and keeps to themselves
We get many hosts telling us that their guest is a little reserved.
We ask guests about this, the answer we tend to get is that the person doesn’t want to impose more on your home life than they already are. Part of it is guilt and the word ‘guest’ doesn’t adequately describe the arrangement, and part of it is concern about their current, uncertain situation. Hosting is not forever and they might be nervous about what will happen when a placement ends. Most guests have past experiences of trauma or distress either in their home country, on their journey to the UK, or as part of their struggle against the UK’s hostile environment policies and enforced destitution.
There are a lot of reasons why your guest might be reserved and these are often hard to untangle when the first priority is food and shelter. It’s best to carry on with your daily life as usual and if you have any concerns about their mental well-being you should let the caseworker know.
Can I host an unaccompanied child through Room for Refugees?
We have arranged the hosting of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASCs) with local authorities.
It is very strictly controlled and regulated and children arriving here alone are the responsibility of the local authority. Most are then fostered or, if older, placed in some sort of hostel. In certain cases, social workers reach out to use our network, however, we are not a fostering service.
If you want more information about unaccompanied children, The Separated Child Foundation is a charity focused on these asylum-seekers and refugees.
Is hosting legal?
Refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants have different rights and entitlements in the UK. Hosting is legal provided that no rent (or other payment which might be construed as rent) is being paid.
However, if you live in England, you are subject to the ‘Right to Rent’ Scheme. In short, that prevents anyone without Leave to Remain in the UK from renting property. If you rent your home and you want to host, it is important that you maintain a distinction that your guest is a guest, and your home is not their permanent place of residence. It sounds confusing - another way to see it is that hosting is like sofa-surfing - temporary and classed as a form of homelessness.
If you feel that you need legal advice regarding your position as a host, this would need to be sought separately as Room for Refugees isn't qualified to provide this sort of advice to hosts.
How does hosting affect my sole occupancy council tax discount?
The approach taken in relation to sole-occupancy discounts varies from council to council. Check out the website for your local authority area and see what they say about guests.
You might wish to ask your council an open question like: “How long can I have a guest staying before it is considered that I am not eligible for the discount?”
Many local authorities accept that the guest is impoverished and destitute and does not make use of council resources, and that they are not a resident in your home but a temporary guest who is trying to move on.
However, if you are hosting a guest for a considerable length of time and your council thinks you are not eligible for a discount, you can still insist that the council give you a reduction on your council tax because your guest is completely destitute and has no main address etc. and is not using council services.
If you are facing opposition from your council because of your hosting placement, please let us know at email@example.com
Will hosting affect my housing benefits?
Individual councils may take different approaches, but providing hosting for a guest could affect the amount of housing benefits you receive, particularly if the guest is staying for a substantial amount of time, on the basis that you have a spare room or because the guest is a non-dependant adult who should in the council's view be paying rent.
If you are considering hosting you can contact your council with any queries, however if you are a current host we suggest you contact your guest's caseworker in the first instance, as information disclosed to the council could adversely affect your guest's position.
Will my insurance cover my guest while I am hosting them?
The scope of coverage offered by insurance policies varies, so you should contact your insurer if you have queries. You may need to notify your insurer, have your policy amended or obtain your insurer's consent in order to host. While Room for Refugees will endeavour to support hosts and guests, it cannot accept any liability in relation to hosting arrangements.
What kind of feedback has the scheme got so far?
The feedback so far suggests that the majority of hosts find the experience personally enriching and rewarding. They have the opportunity to provide stability to someone in a difficult stage in their journey to refuge and independence.
They also have the opportunity to share their empty rooms or homes and material wealth, and gain emotional well being and a deep sense of satisfaction in the process. Our guests appreciate the help given and often form lifelong friendships with their hosts.
If I decide not to host, is there anything else I can do to help?
If you decide you cannot take in anyone at the moment, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We understand that people's circumstances change and there may be other ways you can help:
- If you are a health visitor/district nurse/social worker/mental health practitioner or similar, might you be willing to visit and assess potential hosts?
- Please tell your friends about Room for Refugees and ask them to register here
- Do you have any other skills or expertise or time that you can offer? Tell us.
What is Room for Refugees’ role?
Room for Refugees will match generous hosts with guests who are asylum-seekers or refugees. It will make basic checks on guests and may arrange follow-up visits and provide other limited forms of support for hosts and guests.
It does not provide social work services or other regulated services (including care, medical or legal services) to guests, hosts or anybody else.
The Room for Refugees Network matches adults who take responsibility for their own actions.
We match unaccompanied children by working in collaboration with local authorities social work departments and their own screening processes. With 7,000 plus hosts, we have an excellent success rate in this area and can place children relatively quickly, subject to proper safeguarding and screening by social workers who would be leading the process.
We will not be responsible for verifying the accuracy of information provided by hosts or guests or managing the continuing relationship between hosts and guests.
We will not pay hosts; hosting is an altruistic relationship where no rent or services in lieu are due in exchange for the hosting.
Room for Refugees will not be finding placements for guests with violent or abusive behaviour, serious mental health issues or substance abuse problems.
Room for Refugees will do what it can to ensure a successful placement but cannot guarantee this.
- Social media
Everybody has the right to live a life free of abuse, neglect and harm. Positive Action in Housing and Room for Refugees are dedicated to safeguarding those we work with.
Positive Action in Housing is an anti-racist homelessness and human rights charity (SC027577). We are dedicated to supporting people from migrant backgrounds to live dignified lives free from poverty, homelessness or inequality. As the hosting branch of this charity, Room for Refugees is governed by the same culture and values.
For information on the Safeguarding Policies and Staff Code of Conduct at Positive Action in Housing and Room for Refugees please contact our Safeguarding Lead email@example.com
If you think there is something we are not doing right, or you would like to make a complaint about one of our staff members, please contact the Safeguarding Lead firstname.lastname@example.org
When we share your personal information with another organisation we promise to ensure that this is only done with your consent, or if we’re required to do so by law.
All staff who handle personal information are given training and we take it very seriously if someone fails to use or protect it properly.
We will use Personal Information in order to hold information about potential and actual hosts, guests, home visitors, volunteers, referrers and other supporters; to match hosts to potential guests and to contact individuals about this; to assist in managing any subsequent hosting; to keep home visitors and referrers informed; to assist us in monitoring and improving what we do.
We will retain the Personal Information for so long as individuals are active in the capacity for which the Information is held and, after that, for as long as, and to the extent, reasonably needed to keep a record of the hosting and other activities in our remit.
We may share some Personal Information with potential hosts and guests, our home visitors and other volunteers and with appropriate agencies and authorities.
If any individual would like to review or modify any part of the Personal Information we hold about them, want us to stop processing any of their Personal Information or have any query, then they should send an email to email@example.com.
We may also disclose Personal Information where required to disclose it by law; to our professional advisers to get their advice; to such other parties as we consider necessary in order to run our activities (for example, our IT systems service provider).
Refugee hosting in the U.S.
We have begun placements in Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, CA. We plan to expand the Network to the US by working in partnership with refugee resettlement agencies. If you are interested in hosting in the USA or Canada and think there is a need in your local area for our service, please consider putting us in touch with your local refugee resettlement agency,