By Moira Flynn
When I heard about Grace Hosting I assumed it was called that because there was no money involved and it was a celebration of hospitality and the benefits that brings to both guest and host, but actually it got its name from its first guest who was called Grace!
We heard about it because Brian has been volunteering as a Befriender for LASSN for a number of years. With both our sons now established elsewhere, we found we had room to spare and wanted to use that in some way. I was unsure though, about how I would feel as a woman, if we were to have mainly male Muslim guests given the very different cultural view of women that some of them, I rightly or wrongly presumed, would bring.
As a first step we decided to volunteer at the Winter Night Shelter when it came to Garforth, hosted by the Methodist church. The people in charge there – Tim and Sue – created a lovely atmosphere of relaxed welcome and volunteers came from four different churches. We did a couple of night shifts which started about nine and involved chatting with the men if they wanted to, and generally being on hand. It was less difficult than I expected and gave me the confidence to go along for the training at LASSN for people interested in becoming Grace hosts.
The way the scheme works is that PAFRAS and the RED CROSS screen and refer guests to Grace Hosting which is managed by Jo Carter the volunteer support worker at LASSN and her team of volunteer coordinators. They place guests referred to them each night, according to which
Remain by the Home Office. While they are appealing against the Home Office’s decision they are not entitled to accommodation or even the subsistence funding of around £35 a week that asylum seekers receive whilst their first claim is being processed. I find it very difficult to imagine having no money at all in my pocket and being totally dependent on the kindness of strangers (as these men are), yet they have all brought good humour and dignity to the situation they find themselves in. This puts any concerns we have into a different perspective and reminds us to enjoy all the ordinary pleasures it’s so easy to take for granted like the key to our own home, choosing your own food, relaxing with friends. We’ve also learned a bit more about some other countries and different ways of thinking about our world from our guests as well as sharing some of our own pleasures – like the allotment, a trip to the cinema and eating fish without heads on!
If you would like to find out more about grace Hosting or the other work done by LASSN contact information is
Jo Carter – Grace Hosting – Tel. No is: 07927 808372
Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network
• Tel: 0113 373 1759
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org