The Bible has much to say about welcoming foreigners and strangers into our midst. Over the next few weeks I reproduce a report printed in my recently released manual of good practice, The Poor deserve the Best (see side panel), showing how a team in Manchester are bringing practical expression to this Biblical injunction.
The Boaz Trust is a Christian charity which was founded in 2004 in response to the growing problem of destitution amongst refused asylum seekers in Greater Manchester, in the North West of England, UK.
The ultimate aim of Boaz is to work towards ending destitution amongst asylum seekers in the UK, particularly in Greater Manchester, by:
- Providing accommodation and other essentials for life
- Promoting justice for asylum seekers and refugees
- Campaigning for changes in asylum legislation
- Empowering the church to become involved in all of the above by offering practical, emotional and spiritual support to asylum seekers and refugees.
What is the problem?
The numbers of asylum seekers nationwide is difficult to calculate but has fallen somewhat since the estimate of 284,500 by the Independent Asylum Commission in 2008. Manchester is one of the major dispersal towns for asylum seekers entering the country and many remain once their asylum claims are turned down.
Of the 2,000 estimated in the Greater Manchester area, many are afraid to go back to their countries of origin, many seek to appeal against their initial refusal and many can’t be removed to countries where there may be serious safety issues.
Once Boaz agrees to help a client, we are tasked with supporting someone who has no access to public funds ie no benefits or housing provision, and no right to work, whilst we ourselves have no statutory funding for the charity. Many clients present with health problems including both the physical and mental effects of trauma, neglect and stress.
Our accommodation consists of eight houses, with maximum capacity for 40 adults, a winter night shelter for twelve men and a hosting scheme. Six of our houses have been loaned free of charge but we pay the mortgage on the other two.
Hosting Asylum Seekers – The Boaz Hosting Scheme
A Boaz host is someone who is willing to accommodate a destitute asylum seeker in their own home, either as a short-term emergency measure or for a few weeks or months.
Guests are matched with suitable hosts and a shared agreement is reached about living arrangements. Boaz undertakes to support both parties, monitoring the arrangements and providing alternatives where necessary. It is mainly, though not entirely, sustained by Christians from local churches.
As a Christian charity it is our conviction that the ministry of the gospel can be outworked through the practice of accepting strangers and bringing them right into the heart of family life and the church community. Although this demands a level of giving beyond the customary voluntary or financial response, we believe that the family of the church is the place where God’s heart for the poor can most readily be demonstrated.
In the next posting we will look at funding and the fruit of the ministry.