It is precisely for this reason that I am delighted to be starting the new year with a new project: NAmASte, the Network of Accommodation for Asylum Seekers. I am writing now to invite your thinking as to whether you, or someone you know amongst your friends and contacts, may wish to take part in this network.
Through this project, which will be running as part of the services offered by Asylum Welcome, we hope to identify, encourage and support local people - individuals, couples, families, even small groups - to welcome an asylum seeker, who may otherwise be homeless, into their home. Whether this is simply for a few days and weeks, or for longer periods up to a number of months, offering people a friendly and secure base from which to begin to resolve their wider issues can have a transformative effect on a vulnerable person's life.
I'm sure I don't need to explain the difficulties of living with little or no income, dealing with deep-seated personal trauma and grappling with complex legal issues faced by many asylum seekers, or how these are exacerbated when working from a basis of homelessness or insecure, temporary accommodation often on sofas or floors or inappropriate situations where they may be at risk of exploitation. Equally, I'm sure you can imagine the impact that being offered a sympathetic welcome, a comfy bed and a safe room of your own could have in helping people begin to make positive headway. As well as meeting an immediate need, through offering practical and personal support to guests, through offering training, advise, encouragement and ongoing support to hosts, and through facilitating practical and sensible hosting agreements, we hope to establish positive relationships that enable hosts to benefit from understanding and participating in the lives of often remarkable people from diverse cultures and experiences, and that enable guests to feel welcomed and recognised for who they are and therefore to flourish.
"Namaste" is a greeting or word of welcome used throughout much of Asia, in various languages, dialects and cultures. Whilst it is the standard greeting, translated it means to recognise and welcome the spirit in, or of, the person welcomed. It is hoped that through this project, recognising and welcoming people's humanity in a most practical way, that this is exactly what we will be able to do.
Please contact me if you would like to know more, and please forward this message to your friends, contacts and networks who you think may be interested...
We will very soon be starting to identify those most in need of accommodation, from those already known to Asylum Welcome and by referral from other agencies. However, at this point, I am looking for people who are open to considering hosting, but also to people who may have other insights or expertise to offer, or people who may want to get involved in other ways.
There is no commitment to host at this stage, and I am very happy to explore any thoughts or concerns you may have about hosting, and to provide you with much more information. I am aware there are many people in Oxford - and elsewhere - who have very successfully hosted asylum seekers for many years. I am happy to discuss their experiences and pass on lessons learned, and begin to look at whether you as an individual, couple, family, household or even a small group of households may be able to offer a home for a few weeks or months. I can assure you that all guests will be people who are suitable to benefit from this, and who are well known to us, and you will be supported on any practical or personal issues that may arise. All guests will continue to receive support around their cases and other issues and you are not being asked to get involved beyond hosting, or to be an expert. All you need is a welcoming attitude, a sympathy towards the experiences of asylum seekers, and a spare room.