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Hosting in your home

While most LexRAP-supported families live in their own housing, from time to time we have a situation where it is helpful to place an individual or a small family in a host-home. This might be an Asylum seeker who does not yet have work authorization or ability to pay rent, or a single refugee who would benefit from being welcomed into a family for a period of time. If you are able to host, LexRAP can provide guidance and a variety of other supports, so a new host will not feel on their own.

Hosting Asylum Seekers

Interested in hosting an asylum seeker but you have questions? Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about hosting.

Asylum seekers are individuals who are in the US and declare that they have a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” if they return to their home country. Some have entered legally with a visa (a student or visitor) and their visa may be current or expired. Some enter illegally (without Visa or entry permit) by walking across a border. When declaring that they wish to seek asylum, they claim that the situation in their home country is unsafe for them or unstable and hope to stay rather than return to a dangerous situation. Asylum seekers might be a couple or family where at least one person has a well-founded fear of persecution. An asylee may be a single man or woman, a parent with children, or parent hoping to bring their families to the US after they are established.

Children (under the age of 18) who have no parent or guardian are considered unaccompanied minors. If the child comes to the US from a refugee camp, they most likely arrive having already been granted refugee status and are on their way to permanent residency. If the child does not have refugee status, they have to apply for asylum. Ascentria Care Alliance is the only agency that helps refugee unaccompanied minors. They seek foster parents to take these children into their homes (mostly teens). If the child is seeking asylum, Ascentria provides them with legal assistance.

If a person (or family) is in the US illegally and does not declare they are seeking asylum, they have no rights to work or be in the US and they may be deported. Some Asylum seekers have been held in detention as they apply, most are released with the requirement that they apply for asylum within a year of their arrival. After applying for asylum, they must apply for permission to work. The wait for permission may vary with presidential administrations and the length of the administrative queue. If the person works ‘under the table’, they jeopardize their application. Some states offer healthcare and other benefits while people are in the asylum process.

Without the ability to work, asylum seekers need food and shelter. They can’t earn money and they can’t sign leases. Many stay with friends or others from their country, some are in homeless shelters, though some shelters do not allow those without permanent residency (Green Cards). Many are in urgent need of housing/food/support.

Asylum seekers come from all over the world because the worldwide political situation is in constant flux. In the decade of 2010, the largest numbers come from the middle east (Iraq and Syria) and Africa (Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo). Haitians were granted Humanitarian Parolee status after the country experienced a devastating earthquake. In 2021 people from Afghanistan arrived with Humanitarian Parolee status, this was followed by Ukrainians with Humanitarian Parolee status. Humanitarian Parolees have a quicker route to permission to work but have to apply for asylum within one year. The fact that they have gotten themselves to the US shows that most are motivated and relatively world-wise.
Ideally, asylum seekers are given their own apartment, to help instill a sense of independence and continuity. But, given the desperate situation for many, a spare room in someone’s home may be preferable to remaining homeless and ‘couch surfing’. With the challenges of language difficulties and the inability to work, being hosted is a welcomed opportunity.
This will vary according to factors including: where they are in the application process of asylum, how long it takes for them to get permission to work, and how long it takes to find a job once they are allowed to do so. Generally, assume it will be a year or so.
Since asylum seekers are often in great need, whatever length of time you can offer may be very helpful. Expectations should be discussed and agreed to in advance of this commitment.

Because adult asylum seekers have no legal status, there are no legal requirements. From the physical standpoint: their own room is highly desirable. If they have their own bathroom and/or kitchen, that’s a plus. Cooking and shared meals will be worked out in each situation. From a personal standpoint, remember that many of these individuals have been through great loss or trauma – hosts must be warm, helpful, and considerate, without being intrusive. Good listening skills are a plus, but most of all, a sense of consistency is important for someone who has very little they could count on for some length of time.

Hosting unaccompanied minors follows the state rules for foster parenting. These include attending training and have some housing restrictions.

LexRAP has relationships with several organizations that work with those seeking asylum. LexRAP works with these organizations to place those who are vetted and are already in the asylum process and have an established relationship with a lawyer. This is important because LexRAP does not provide legal aid – the process is a shifting landscape and requires a professional so as to not put these already vulnerable people at risk of mistakes being made. In addition, we expect that those being hosted have had a medical evaluation at Boston Medical Center or other medical center helping new arrivals.
A legal accessory apartment or rental apartment would be preferable for a family. A parent with one or two children could stay in a home if there is adequate space and all parties agree. Hosting children of school age means help getting the children into the local school, which is a requirement.
LexRAP intends to provide support in many ways, including transportation, ESL, help finding a job, and fundraising. Town social workers are another resource.
It’s important to help them find places to go regularly, particularly if none of the hosts is home during the day. This will help with English skills, understanding how to get around, and becoming more familiar with American culture. Volunteer opportunities, whether at a library, soup kitchen, etc., can be good places for them to feel useful and make friends.
While there may be challenges in establishing a new relationship in your house, most hosts report that it is also very rewarding, and in many cases life-long friendships are established. Before hosting, LexRAP will have hosts meet with people who have already hosted, in an effort to allow potential hosts to ask questions and discuss their home situation.

“Immigrants are housed in towns that they can afford. They need to be housed in towns that can afford them.”

Interested in hosting an Asylum Seeker? Contact us for more information.

Unaccompanied Minor Asylum Seeker

If you are interested in exploring being a foster parent for an unaccompanied minor Asylum Seeker, please contact Ascentria. LexRAP would be happy to provide additional support to those who follow this path.

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