A nationwide hosting scheme, Hope at Home train and support a network of volunteer hosts to offer a safe place to stay to a survivor of slavery facing homelessness. Families are at the heart of Hope at Home’s mission to provide safe homes for survivors of modern slavery.
Anyone with a spare room can be considered for hosting, and Hope at Home hosts come from all walks of life. Some are single, some have a partner or are married, others have children – our hosts come from a range of economic and social backgrounds.
In this article, we focus on how hosting can have a truly transformative and positive impact on not only the hosts but their wider family.
Toby, now 21, is the child of dedicated Hope at Home hosts and grew up surrounded by guests in the home. We interviewed Toby about his experiences as a ‘host kid’ and learned how he found a path to justice in a unique and inspiring way.
As Toby reflects on his youth, he fondly recalls moments spent with survivors living in the family home. “Favourite moments with guests? The food! Food has always been well-loved in our house and something to be shared together,” Toby shared.
Cooking with guests, learning about their cultural dishes, and sharing meals together created some of his favourite memories of hosting. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, though. Toby adds, “I suppose one of the challenges was that the food wasn’t always to my liking!”
Living with guests in the home not only introduced Toby to diverse cuisines but also sparked meaningful conversations. “I loved to talk religion with guests, some of whom unknowingly helped me study towards my R.S GSCE,” Toby recalls. These interactions broadened his horizons and deepened his understanding of the world.
However, it wasn’t just about food and conversations; hosting survivors of modern slavery profoundly impacted Toby’s perspective on justice and social issues. “Hosting survivors of modern slavery opened my eyes to the severity of both global and national injustices,” he said. Witnessing firsthand the effects of organised crime groups, a hostile immigration system, and austerity on vulnerable people from various backgrounds changed his outlook on social justice. “It was no longer a merely good idea, but a necessity,” Toby affirms.
At the age of 11 or 12, Toby recalled he participated in a local mock trial. This experience ignited a spark within him, a spark that would later drive him to study law and fight for justice. “It was as I grew older that I realised law provided the perfect opportunity to action my heart for social justice by standing up for those who struggle to do so themselves,” Toby explains
Toby’s journey took a pivotal turn during their hosting experience when their first guest was granted indefinite leave to remain. To celebrate, they threw a party, and Toby vividly remembers the feeling of relief and safety in the room. It was then that he realised his calling: “I wanted the ability to help people win battles for themselves, and by studying the law, I could do this.”
Toby credits his parents and Hope at Home with instilling in him a passion for social justice, responsibility and equity. “Growing up with hosting exposed me to a different world and prepared me to expand my own horizons at university,” he says.
Toby decided to study a Law degree at university, recently graduating with a 2:1, and it was during these university years that Toby delved deeper into these values and aspirations. “I learnt a lot about what these values that had been passed down truly meant for me and carved my own aspirations to provide everyday justice and help others stand up for themselves.”
Toby graduates with a 2:1 in Law. “I see myself empowering others to find justice for themselves,” he said.
His advice for children and young adults in host families? “Seize the day! Hosting is both a privilege and an opportunity. We have so much to learn from guests that keeping an open mind and ear will prepare you well for later life.”
Seeing firsthand the comfort a safe home can bring, Toby emphasises the importance of safe housing. “So many of us in the UK take for granted the security of the roofs over our heads,” he says. “The scarcity of these for survivors is astounding.” This firsthand experience strongly influenced Toby’s legal studies and work.
During their hosting journey, Toby had the opportunity to learn from guests in unexpected ways. “I learned how to make spring rolls!” he shares, chuckling. Beyond cooking lessons, they danced in the living room, and a guest taught Toby about their Islamic faith.
As Toby embarked on his career journey, his goal was clear: to help people achieve everyday justice in their lives. “Small everyday justices make immeasurable differences to the lives of those around us and often go overlooked,” he emphasises. Toby currently works for Citizens Advice, aiming to provide everyday justice and help others stand up for themselves.
Toby envisions himself as a force for justice. “I see myself empowering people to find justice for themselves,” he says. “Justice is a battle and often has to be taken.” His commitment to speaking out against modern slavery and advocating for changes in the immigration and asylum system remains unwavering.
Toby’s remarkable journey from a ‘host kid’ to an advocate for justice is a reminder that hosting can truly benefit and shape not only the survivor and their host, but their wider family. His story serves as a powerful reminder that every act of kindness and every safe home can shape a brighter, more just future for all.