Back in 2008, Dr Naomi Millner was volunteering at Bristol Refugee Rights and she started to see a rise in the number of asylum seekers sleeping rough or in need of accommodation in the city. A first meeting was called at the old Cafe Kino and after many conversations (and many cups of tea and coffee), the group decided to, in solidarity, begin a small hosting scheme to meet the accommodation needs of destitute refused asylum seekers in Bristol.
When a claim for asylum is rejected and asylum seekers lose their accommodation and all financial support ceases, it becomes increasingly hard for them to move forward without the support of an organisation like BHN.
So BHN was started in solidarity with those seeking asylum and experiencing destitution - embracing our six core values of Solidarity, Equality, Mutual Empowerment, Hospitality, Integrity and Creative Resistance. Since the beginning, we have created spaces where local people and those seeking safety can come together, learn from each other, and create a rich and welcoming community of people from all around the world.
Soon after the network started hosting people in local households, we received the generous offer of large house - to be run by BHN, and which could welcome 11 people at a time. For a small community-based organisation this seemed like a big challenge, but we knew that taking on this responsibility would have an immeasurable impact on the lives of people seeking sanctuary in Bristol. This generous donation gave us the impulse to constitute ourselves as a registered charity and helped us to plan the future of the network.
The network has grown extensively since its initial days, from just a few households around Bristol to over 30 people being hosted at a time across our thriving hosting network and our men's house. We also have our lively and relaxed Welcome Centre each Monday and provide 1-1 support to all our members with progressing their asylum claim via our dedicated specialist advocacy team (our HELP Team). We have a popular volunteering scheme with a mix of UK born and refugee volunteers including most of our current members. These volunteers deliver most of our services. For years BHN was fully run by volunteers and supported by generous donations from local people. We now have 8 part-time members of staff and over 100 volunteers and are working in partnership with funders and local donors to keep providing spaces of safety and welcome to those experiencing destitution in Bristol.
If you are interested in connecting with us, please be sure to get in touch.