Sanctuary Hosting service Coordinator, Elaine, came into the office the other day, and said this:

‘I introduced a guest to a new host today and it never gets old after so many times and years, it blows me away every time when a volunteer host family says to a complete stranger: ‘My home is your home, help yourself to anything in the fridge’.

That is it really – in a nutshell.

Sanctuary Hosting offers the chance for homeowners in the Thames Valley to give a bed to someone seeking a new life in our community. And they do.

Since they started in 2015, 80 people have volunteered to open up their spare room to a stranger. Sometimes for a few nights, sometimes for a few months- it’s up to the host. And for them, it’s a question of humanity and the recognition that we all need a safe place to lay our head, and some of us who have it can offer that to others who don’t.

Madeleine has hosted nine ‘guests’ since 2015 when the refugee crisis hit a peak, with the terrible images of a little Syrian boy washed up on a Mediterranean beach. She said it was a tangible way to help:

It’s more than just ‘doing good’. It’s quite deep. It’s about equality and respect, and all those things. You’re living it a bit, rather than just reading about it or thinking about it.’

Of course – like having any guests – there can be difficult moments, and many of the guests are traumatised by their past experiences, but there are also moments of magic.

‘It’s amazing being able to laugh about things with people from a different culture. I love that- when you find so much difference, but you find something you can both giggle about, or do together. Humour is a really big positive. Seeing a guest become more confident and more ‘in themselves’ is wonderful’.

Aside from hosting, Sanctuary Hosting also offer other volunteering roles as a guest or host support worker that usually take a couple of hours a week to help hosting placements run smoothly and be a support for the guests and hosts. If you are unable to host or volunteer, consider giving £10 per month. Such support goes a very long way in our dynamic small charity. Please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!

Sanctuary Hosting is a registered UK charity that provides shelter to homeless vulnerable migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are destitute. They work across the Thames Valley to match guests to generous people who have a spare room to accommodate them temporarily.

The idea for “Sanctuary Hosting” came at the Refugees Welcome demonstration in Oxford, in July 2015. In his speech to the crowd our founder Wyon Stansfeld asked, who would be willing to open up their home to a refugee or migrant in need? The response was startling. Many people volunteered. And so their service began. Thanks to the Big Lottery and Oxford City Council, they work in partnership with the British Red Cross and Citizens Advice Reading to holistically support their guests.

You can apply to volunteer with Sanctuary Hosting through our online volunteering platform, Simply Connect:

Volunteer Guest Support Worker
Volunteer Host
Volunteer Host Support Worker

To find out more about Sanctuary Hosting, visit their website: You can also follow them on social media:

Twitter: @SanctuaryHUK