Our news programmes are full of stories about refugees, and we’re all used to thinking of them as “foreign” or “outsiders”, from deprived or backward countries. But I’ve come to consider refugees with a wider vision.
I know a couple — I’ll call them “David” and “Jo” — that provide a “safe house” for refugees. The people they take in aren’t running from war zones or difficult political situations. They’re running away from domestic violence, childhood abuse, or mental disorders. They all need a safe HOME where they can be loved, nurtured, and regain strength to face life again.
I was one such refugee. I came from a background of violence and abuse, and lived as a teenager on and off the streets, seeing things that most people will never have the misfortune to experience. David and Jo met me one day. They didn’t pressure me to join a rehabilitation programme, or give me a few pounds and a telephone number for a counseling service. They simply gave me a latchkey to their home. I was not the kind of girl “nice” people invite home. I was on the streets, close to alcoholic, taking drugs, a psychiatric patient, and mixed up with bad company. Yet despite having young children of their own, this couple opened their lives and their home to me.
I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for this couple. They stepped out of their comfort zone to extend their home to somebody who’d never known what a home was about. They have done this, for over twenty years, for at least eight other people. Probably none of those people would have made it if they hadn’t been cared for this way.
Most people they take in need months or years of help and support, emotional, physical, and financial. Yet David and Jo don’t receive funding, or have any outside agencies supporting them. They often don’t even get thanks; they simply act because they want to help. They say its a privilege to see people heal and grow.
After a long struggle, with their continual support and encouragement, I got through some therapy, cleaned up, and studied for exams. I found a flat of my own, a good job, friends and even a non-abusive partner. When I walk down the aisle with him, David and Jo will give me away in marriage. They will stand in place of the biological parents who let me down so badly.
Even though they’re not mine by blood, I couldn’t want for better parents. I hope that one day I’ll have the honour of extending my home to someone in need, just like they did for me.