Pat, Margaret and Mary are three elderly Salesian Sisters who host destitute asylum seeking women in their home in Beckenham.
The three Sisters have hosted six women since 2016, providing a safe and welcoming place for them to stay, food and companionship, with almost 2,000 nights’ worth of safe accommodation provided to date.
As Sister Pat explains: “There was an international meeting of the Salesian Sisters in 2014. The call from that was to broaden our horizons in terms of how we live. At the same time, the refugee crisis was very much in the news; though we are few in number and our average age is 70 plus, we felt we could do this. The time we found out about this property was the same time we found out about Housing Justice at a hosting information evening, so everything fell into place at the same time. Giving a home to destitute women was something we definitely wanted to commit ourselves to”.
Sister Margaret comments: “So many people don’t know about asylum seekers and how they are treated. The truth needs to come out as to what the asylum system is really like – the difficulties these poor people have to live through, with no possibility of bettering their situation until they finally (if they are lucky) get papers from the Home Office granting them leave to remain. Hosting is an urgently needed lifeline for them and a very fulfilling task for those who undertake it.”
Sister Pat adds: “It’s a learning process every day, and of course every person is different. There have been times when we’ve had good news (for example, one guest getting her stay), or setbacks. I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity; I’ve learned more and received more than I’ve given.”
Sister Mary sums up their motivation: “The bottom line is, as Jesus Himself said: “I tell you whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.” [Matthew 25:40]
“It’s one thing to say you’re making a home for people; it’s another to make people feel they are at home.”