February
22
Author
Richard Wilson
A big heart and a spare room

We have posted here previously about the valuable work of Hope at Home, which includes as part of their vision, ensuring that every survivor of modern slavery in the UK has a safe place to live. Here’s a story of how a tweet about the charity caught one couple’s attention and led to their involvement and some positive experiences.

 

Peter and Ann* have been faithful exercising their gift of hospitality over many years. As well as hosting gatherings in their home they have also accommodated foreign students learning English and, on occasion, given lodging to friends in need. Perhaps ironically, it was the COVID ‘lockdown’ that created an opportunity for them to ‘open-up’ and be hospitable in a different way, to use spare rooms in their house.

 

Scrolling through Twitter one day, Ann spotted a tweet from Hope at Home, seeking people with 'a big heart and a spare room'. She and Peter were conscious that while lockdown was providing great challenges for many people, they themselves had both the security which so many others lack, and a comfortable home with more than enough space for the two of them. Could they fit the bill?

 

In recent years the couple had been involved with the local Syrian refugee Buddy Project, but they had no previous contacts or friendships with people who had formerly been trafficked. They approached Hope at Home to find out more about what might be involved – how long would the commitment be? What would they be expected to provide or to do? Was it safe? And, even though the first COVID restrictions had then been lifted, the ongoing pandemic and its uncertainty remained a concern for them.

 

Once they had decided to move ahead, Peter and Ann received training through a number of online sessions. At the start they realised that this was a step into the unknown and it would be different accommodating a guest they knew nothing about. As Peter acknowledges, the reality does not unfold until after the all the training, when the guest arrives. With only a little knowledge of human trafficking, Peter and Ann were expecting someone younger, but they were asked to host an older woman, which has suited them extremely well. Not all those cared for through Hope at Home speak English well, but their guest does and the hosts have been learning much about another culture – not least through experiencing a new cuisine!

 

Providing a home is just one part of the care for survivors of human trafficking. Those being housed have other help, including from key workers and solicitors, while they go through the legal processes, whether seeking trafficked status, asylum or residential status. Peter and Ann are capable people and caring friends, but they have learned that they don’t have to sort every problem or issue that arises and that they may never know the complete back-story of their guest; only what she may choose to share in due time.

 

There is a WhatsApp group with other hosts, and the ‘supervision times’, every six weeks with other host families, and involving an independent supervisor, have been a real highlight for the couple. Learning from the stories of other people in the same position around the UK has been a great blessing and Peter and Ann themselves have felt able to share from their new experience and help others. The Hope at Home leaders are also in regular contact and Ann says that they have “felt incredibly supported” through the whole experience. 

 

While the COVID crisis actually led to this couple’s involvement, the lockdown has not been without its particular constraints; limiting contact with others, travelling, and doing the more normal things of life.

 

The Hope at Home website explains that “hosting is really about loving, accepting and walking step by step with a person until they are ready to walk alone”. It is so evident that Peter and Ann have put this into practice and they would encourage others to ‘see what is in their hands’ and consider this act of service.

 

 

*Names changed for confidentiality