Boaz started in 2004 through some friends who offered to open up their homes to people who were homeless in the asylum process, and this has continued to be an important part of our work over the last 15 years. As a faith based organisation, rooted in the teachings of Jesus, we recognise that hospitality and welcoming the stranger is (or it should be) at the very core of how we live our lives. One of our organisational values is Generosity, and we are so thankful for the hospitality and generosity our hosts show to those who stay with them. It's wonderful to hear of friendships that have developed - and often continue for many years- all from a Boaz hosting placement.
Over the years hundreds of people have been hosted with Boaz , however over the last 5 years, the number of hosting placements has decreased significantly. At the peak we could be hosting up to 15-20 individuals at any one time, whereas now it tends to be no more than 2-3 at once. This is partly because we have been able to offer more longer term accommodation through our growing number of shared houses, however we wanted to explore some of the other reasons why hosting numbers are lower now.
It might be surprising to hear that many people who have been referred to Boaz actually turn down the offer of hosting, even when their other options are incredibly limited, running out, or may leave them at risk of exploitation. Over the years, we have got better at communicating what exactly hosting is, how it works, who hosts are. We use honest feedback from previously hosted clients to try to answer lots of questions before they’re even asked! However, some people have told us that they find it daunting to think of moving in with a stranger who speaks a different language, is from a different background, and when you can’t ‘repay the favour’ – which I can understand!
One lesson that we have learnt is that having to move every couple of weeks can be really stressful for our clients (and in all honesty, for our staff team as we try to arrange logistics), but understandably, many people who would like to host for Boaz are not able to commit to providing a room for longer than a couple of weeks. We often aim to move hosted clients into a Boaz house, once a space becomes available, but sadly these spaces come up rarely, due to delays in asylum support and the limited move on options for people who have had their asylum claim refused.
Another major challenges is trying to match hosts and guests, for example in terms of location, availability, gender, make up of the household, timescale for placement, number of bed spaces (most placements are for single people rather than couples), any pets and more.
However, despite the challenges, for those who do move in with a host it can be invaluable: not only by providing essentials such as safe accommodation, but also the impact a warm welcome from a (usually) British household can have, which helps counteract the hostile environment and negative rhetoric that is often spread across British media. We have also heard from hosts as well on many occasions that the very act of hosting has a ripple effect, opening up opportunities for conversations with friends and family members who might be at the very least curious as to why they've welcomed a stranger into their home!
People on the Boaz waiting list are offered hosting when possible, and we also use it to accommodate women in emergency situations over the winter (running alongside the night shelter for men). We meet with the person needing accommodation to explain hosting, complete an assessment, and can sometimes take them to the host's house the same day. Depending on the household, Boaz hosts offer somewhere safe for a couple of weeks up to 12 months!
We supported a young couple, Mohamed and Inaya, and they put it like this:
“We were hosted through Boaz. [We had] a nice room, they were lovely people. They became like friends, like sisters - they opened their hearts as well as their house to us.”
You can read more stories and interviews about Boaz hosting in a couple of Guardian articles here (2010), and here (2015) .
At the time of writing this (January 2020) we are currently looking for a small number of new hosts who might be able to offer longer hosting placements (over 6 weeks). Please do visit our hosting page to find out more about this.
Katie Lifford, Client Services Manager