Imagine arriving in the Bay Area without family, friends, housing, or employment, often speaking little to no English, and where everything – from healthcare and job applications to transportation systems and mail – is new. Fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries, and often waiting years to come to the United States, refugees and asylum seekers are intensely grateful and relieved to be here. At the same time, they often feel disoriented and overwhelmed, but must somehow hit the ground running.
Hosted housing is an arrangement in which individuals with stable housing provide temporary housing for refugee/asylee individuals or families inside their homes or in a separate unit on their property for a limited amount of time. The hosting model offers refugees and asylum seekers the stability, grounding, and relationships that can help foster a smoother transition to the Bay Area. Housing hosts are asked to commit to hosting the individual/family for 3 – 6 months, during which time the refugee/asylee(s) can begin to adjust, transition, and lay the foundation for living and working in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean to be a refugee or asylum seeker? What is the difference between refugees and asylees?
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. When refugees enter the United States, they have already gone through a significant vetting process. Refugees are eligible for government benefits and a work permit immediately upon arrival.
When people flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum – the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance. An asylum seeker must demonstrate that his or her fear of persecution in his or her home country is well-founded. When asylum seekers enter the United States, they are at the beginning of a legal process. Asylum seekers are not eligible for many of the benefits that refugees receive until they have been granted asylum.
The key difference between a refugee and asylum seeker is that a refugee has been vetted via the UNHCR, USCIS, and US State Department, and is immediately eligible for government benefits, a work permit, and can apply for a green card one year after arrival. In other words, they are here entirely legally and are on the path to citizenship. Asylum seekers, on the other hand, are at the beginning of this process, and must demonstrate the need for legal protection and refugee status in order to remain in the country.
What is hosted housing?
Hosted housing is an arrangement in which individuals with stable housing provide temporary housing for refugee/asylum-seeking individuals or families inside their homes or in a separate unit on their property. Housing hosts are asked to commit to hosting the individual/family for a minimum of three months, during which time the refugee/asylee can begin to adjust, transition, and lay the foundation for living and working in the United States.
What are the responsibilities of a housing host?
A housing host’s role is to provide a refugee/asylee with temporary, safe housing. Hosts are not responsible for providing any other services or supports to their guest. New Anchor partners with refugee resettlement agencies and groups throughout the Bay Area who provide extensive case management services to all refugees and asylees as they transition and resettle in the region.
Though providing housing is the sole responsibility of a housing host, many hosts choose to engage further with their refugee guest. Whether it is sharing meals, explaining the quirks and intricacies of American culture, learning about the culture of their guest, or just generally building a relationship, there are many opportunities to have a rewarding cultural exchange as a housing host. In fact, the number one benefit of the hosting experience, as shared by past hosts themselves, is the “mutually transformative” relationship that emerges through the experience, and the impact that has on both parties. Read about Eliot Peper and Andrea Castillo’s experience hosting a refugee from Uganda at their house in Oakland.
What kind of house setup is necessary to host?
Housing hosts are asked to provide either a private bedroom in their home (with a dedicated or shared bathroom), or a separate living space/unit on the property. Hosts are also asked to provide access to a kitchen for food storage and meal preparation.
Housing that is close to public transportation is typically best.
Will my guest pay rent?
Refugee/asylee guests pay a low monthly rent for hosted housing. Paying rent allows refugees/asylees to establish credit, strengthen their budgeting/planning skills, and facilitates independence.
What other supports/services are offered to refugees and asylees in hosted housing?
Refugee resettlement agencies provide refugees, asylum seekers, and housing hosts with a dedicated, collaborative, and responsive partner throughout the hosted housing experience. New Anchor partners with agencies (including JFCS, IRC, Catholic Charities, and others) who provide extensive case management services for refugees and asylees.
Refugees and asylees are typically provided with the following:
- Pre-migration documentation and assistance
- Assistance with finding initial housing
- In-depth and ongoing cultural orientation
- Access to medical and mental health services
- Enrollment in English as a Second Language classes and vocational support
- Enrollment in school as necessary
- Connection to appropriate local resources
- Connection to volunteers and tutors
- Management of crises or family upheaval
What is the vetting process for refugees?
Refugees entering the country have gone through a long (usually multi-year) vetting process by the UNHCR and USCIS. This involves dozens of hours of interviews to confirm that they were either persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
Refugees entering the United States are immediately eligible for government benefits and a work permit and are eligible to apply for a green card 1 year after arrival. In other words, they are here entirely legally and are on the path to citizenship.
Is there any legal liability for hosts who house refugees or asylum seekers?
How do I learn more?