Based on a literature review of recent years and the data arising from the practice in the area of homelessness in Poland it can be concluded that this social problem is not only valid, but also rapidly evolving. This issue requires ongoing monitoring strategies to be developed (these relate to activities at local and national level), but also their optimization and research in the area of new solutions (due to socio-economic changes this also refers to Poles living abroad). From time to time media inform us about very difficult situation of many polish citizens abroad, migrating to different countries in search of a better life, and ending up living on the streets instead. Unfortunately due to different ways of defining homelessness, and lack of consistency in the method of data collection it is difficult to demonstrate the exact number of homeless Poles living abroad.
(Dorota Podgórska- Jachnik, 2014, „Praca socjalna z osobami bezdomnymi”, wyd. Centrum Rozwoju Zasobów Ludzkich, p. 22-26)
One of the important aspects of homelessness, especially in the European perspective is the migration. The scale and intensity of polish migration due to the EU enlargement in 2004 translates not only into economical but also social consequences, including social exclusion and homelessness. Polish migrants, especially in large cities experience reluctance within different communities in the "host" country caused by the sense of threat of the cheap labour force. There are three potential groups of migrants that can be indentified:
1. Highly skilled professionals
2. Young university graduates with no experience on the polish labour market (qualified with good language skills)
3. Poorly educated migrants, often with long history of unemployment, from economically disadvantaged areas of the country.
Poles, migrating to European countries - not always ready to "absorb" so many new employees - often were not able to find a job or lost it. This contributed in many cases to various levels of social degradation. Unemployed Poles were forced to face the new reality, including: lack o resources, violence, substance addiction and homelessness all leading up to social exclusion. Even though the obvious solution would be to return to the country of origin, because they feel ashamed of their failure and hope that the situation will miraculously change, they stick to the newly found circumstances.
(Barbara Goryńska- Bittner, 2011, "Diagnoza skali i charakteru zjawiska bezdomności Polaków (poza granicami Polski) w Europie, w: Problem bezdomności w Polsce, wyd. Pomorskie Centrum na Rzecz Wychodzenia z Bezdomności, 2011, p. 120)
As the population count conducted in 2011 shows most Poles immigrated to other European Union countries (over 85%), of which more than 30% to the UK, more than 22% to Germany. The following destinations were popular among our citizens: Ireland (6.4%), the Netherlands (5.2%), Italy (4.6%). 73% of the people emigrated in search of a better work (possibility of higher wages), 31% due to a lot of difficulties in finding a job in Poland, and 3% in search of better career opportunities abroad. Within the group of people with the intention of taking up employment: 79% were men and 62% women. The second reason given were family matters, of which 49% indicated - family accompaniment. Only 6 % of Polish emigrants left the country for more than 3 months to pursue education at university level or to gain new professional skills. According to the age criterion the largest group consisted of immigrants between 25-29 years of age, and between 35-49 years of age. 73% of polish immigrants were economically active, nearly 25% were inactive, with a small percentage of unemployed people. People with vocational education - NVQ (81%), secondary vocational education (78%) and higher education (over 72%) had the easiest access to employment. In the group of inactive professionals people with primary education and no education were identified (only 1/3 of those people actually worked). It is likely that mainly this groups of people is affected by homelessness.
According to the latest data, the largest group of immigrants in England and Wales are Hindu (694,000 in 2011.), followed closely by Poles (579,000 in 2011).
In terms of ethnicity among all rough sleepers in September and November 2012, the majority were British citizens (48%), followed by Poles (9%). The data collected by Barka Foundation for Mutual Help UK show that over the past five years approx. 3 thousand of Polish rough sleepers returned from London (40% of them were addicts).
In Berlin, the organization "Angels" (" Frostschutzengel ") providing advice in Polish, Russian, Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian, last year advised more than 300 homeless people, of which more than half were Poles. Another well-known program for the homeless is carried out in Hamburg. For three years, workers had contact with almost 3 thousand Poles - people at risk of homelessness or already homeless, deceived migrant workers, addicts or people with mental issues - says Andrew Stasiewicz, coordinator of the Hamburg project. For about 600 Poles they managed to arrange and pay for their return to Poland. - Most of them were accepted back by their families - says Stasiewicz. His team still has considerable amount of work. In Hamburg, there are about 250 homeless Poles.
( http://www.dw.de/z dn.31.01.2015)
In the Netherlands teams working for Barka Foundation assisted around 1400 homeless people, from those - 430 came back to the country of origin. The vast majority of returnees were Poles (around 73%).
(http://www.wiatrak.nl/26772/fundacja-barka-w-holandii z dn.31.01.2015).
This situation indicates that there is no reliable data on the situation of the homeless Poles living abroad, and the experiences of different organizations are evidence of the need for the development of the system of aid in this regard.
CROSS BORDER COOPERATION IN THE EU
Poland is still one of the European countries where emigration dominates over immigration. According to Eurostat data from 2008 the percentage of foreigners in the total population of Poland was one of the lowest in Europe (0.2%). The most numerous nationalities among foreigners holding valid residence card as of 31.12.2009 are as follows:
- Ukraine (26 571 people)
- The Russian Federation (12 961 people)
- Białorusi (8 447 people)
- Vietnam (8 207 people)
- Others: Armenia (3 649 people), China (2 600 people), the United States of America (2 058 people), India (1 970 people), Turkey (1 768 people), South Korea (1 292 people).
Foreign applicants for refugee status in Poland in the period 1.01.-31.12.2009 by citizenship: Russia - 54,10%, Georgia - 39.80% Other - 6.10%.
(http://www.udsc.gov.pl/Zestawienia,roczne,233.html of dn.142015)
In terms of the number of requests for asylum in 2015, Ukraine is located currently in second place, behind Russia. As at 31.12. 2014. Number of Ukrainian citizens applying for refugee status in 2014 accounted for 34% of the total number of applicants for this status, as at 11.05. 2015 (This figure represented 36% of the applications). People applying for international protection in Poland come from the circuits of: Donetsk (approx. 54%) and Lugansk (about 29%), as well as the Crimea (ok; 8%). This also applies to people from : Kiev, Chersonski, Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv and Cherkasy circuits. In this group, 64% are men, 36% women. There are between 18 and 78 years of age. 33% of them have higher education and 66% secondary education. It is important to underline that “the policies for integration of foreigners understood as a specific and planned state action aimed at facilitating the integration of migrants-foreigners in society, is carried out in Poland only in respect of people granted refugee status or subsidiary protection. Other categories of migrants cannot count on any additional measures to support their integration into Polish society since there is no induction program provided for the migrants”
The obtained data shows that of the six surveyed areas of social life, such as access to the labor market, family therapy, permanent residence, political participation, access to citizenship, anti-discrimination - the most unfavorable conditions for the integration relate to the labor market ."Poland did not offer any aid to immigrants in order to facilitate their integration into the labor market, quite the contrary - access to the labor market was significantly reduced (most foreigners from third countries were required to hold a permit for work) – this fact deserves particular attention since the most common reason why migrants decide to come to Poland is their desire to undertake a job.
(Justyna Godlewska „Migracje i imigranci w Polsce – skala, podstawy prawne, polityka” (Projekt „EAPN Polska – razem na rzecz Europy Socjalnej” dofinansowany ze srodków Programu Operacyjnego Fundusz Inicjatyw Obywatelskich”).
Poland does not have a specific and consistent policy on homelessness, nor a national plan for solving this problem. Existing legislation and system of assistance, implemented programs and projects are rather fragmented elements of social policy. So far, social policy and system solutions are more focused on providing intervention and emergency aid to the homeless, rather than prevention and a real actions designed to tackle the problem of homelessness. There is an awareness of the need of replacing the traditional intervention and shelter based system with a modern one, based on individual housing solutions and emphasizing prevention and reintegration of homeless people. The following problematic areas can be indicated:
Area 1 – Social Policy
o No comprehensive social policy on homelessness
o No coherent vision of social policy
o No coordination, no cross-departamental cooperation
o Homelessness considered a problem to be dealt solely by the social assistance system
o Lack of strategic planning in combating homelessness
Area 2 – System regulations
o Existing solutions are intervention-based and occasional
o „Managing” the problem instead of solving it
o Lack of regulations in the areas of prevention and reintegration
o The regulations provide access to occasional, basic services guaranteeing survival; no support for leaving homelessness
o Lack of any standards or guarantees of service quality
Area 3 – Data Collection
o Lack of reliable quantitative and qualitative data on homelessness
o Support based on views and judgments – not on reliable knowledge
o Lack of monitoring systems, proposed solutions ad-hoc in character
o No reliable data on rough sleepers
o Understanding of homelessness – weak definitions
Area 4 – Cooperation
o Competition between service providers
o No consolidation of ideas, values and directions of activities undertaken
o No principles of cooperation between the public sector and NGOs – numerous antagonisms and conflicts
o Lack of a legal basis for cooperation with other stakeholders
In the light of the above It is crucial to underline the importance of the work of NGOs in the area of homelessness. Our main task is to reduce the burden of social exclusion on individuals, families and society by promoting comprehensive and integrated policies as well as providing direct assistance to the people in need. We are aware of cultural, historic and social differences between European countries, we respect the fact that people may come from different background and have different experiences but due to the open borders within the EU we need to open up to the necessity of close cooperation with other European organizations in order to help socially excluded people regardless of their place of origin
SOCIAL HELP AVAILABLE IN POLAND
SYSTEM OF SOCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE IN POLAND
Social assistance in Poland is regulated by the Law of 12 March 2004 on Social Assistance (uniform text Journal of Laws 2009.175.1362.). The system is linked to the central and local administrative units:
• on the level of municipalities and communes - Social Assistance Centers
• on the county/district level - Powiat Centers for Family Support
• on the province level - Regional Social Policy Centers
All social services offices work closely with different organizations and NGOs providing assistance for the homeless (including single mothers), day-care facilities and support centers with different areas of expertise.
BENEFICIARIES OF SOCIAL ASSISTANCE
"According to the provisions of the Act on Social Assistance, people holding Polish citizenship, residing and staying within the territory of the Republic of Poland, and foreigners residing and staying on the territory of the Republic of Poland, holding a residence permit or refugee status, as well as citizens of the European Union and European Economic Area, who stay on the territory of Poland and who hold a stay permit are entitled to social assistance benefits".
Social assistance in Poland includes various forms of support designed to ensure equal access to all vulnerable groups like: poor families, young people leaving orphanages and "re-entering "real world", homelessness people, single mothers, the unemployed, the disabled, people suffering due to prolonged illness, addicts, people discharged from penitentiary institutions etc.
FORMS OF ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT
The following forms of assistance can be indicated within social services operations:
• Cash benefits (including permanent, periodical and purpose based benefits)
• Assistance to persons covered by international protection (refugees and foreigners granted the subsidiary protection on the territory of Poland)
• Individual integration programs (including cash benefits, health insurance, general assistance)
Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Policy: http://www.mpips.gov.pl/en/social-assistance/
In case of helping homeless people, including homeless migrants in Poland several NGOs, like Monar Association, Caritas, St. Brither Albert's Aid Society, Barka and Doctors of Hope play a pivotal role. They provide assistance in all types of facilities for homeless people including night shelters, hostels, homes for single mothers, homes for the elderly and the disabled, social and professional re-adaptation. Without a doubt, such activities are essential in comprehensive strategy focused on addressing problems associated with homelessness in Europe.
It needs to be highlighted that any vulnerable population should have access to quality health and social services when required. The services for the homeless should be standardized, responsive, and integrated. It is essential they should be delivered timely and to agreed standards. A tight cooperation between the statutory and voluntary sectors is highly recommended. To adequately tackle the problem of homelessness, the number of people in need should be properly calculated or estimated – only integrated activities of governmental and non-governmental institutions would enable it. Furthermore, help should be provided for the most vulnerable people in our communities who have complex needs and whose living conditions are outrageous. The inclusion process should start by offering some new ways to help homeless people into employment. The active promotion of good practices and successful outcomes is likely to enable the homeless to take active control over their lives.
Support Options for Homeless Migrants
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE TO EUR MIGRANTS FACING HOMELESSNESS
General facts about the Polish educational background.
Conditions for starting education by foreigners in Polish schools are specified in the provisions of Art. 94a of the Act of 7 September 1991 on the Education System (Dz. U. [Polish Journal of Laws] of 2004 No. 256, item 2572, as amended) and the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 1 April 2010 on Enrolment of non-Polish Citizens to Public Nursery Schools, Schools, Teacher Training Centres and Facilities, as well as Organisation of Additional Polish Language and Remedial Classes, and Classes Focused on the Language and Culture of the Country of Origin (Dz. U. [Polish Journal of Laws] of 2010, No. 57, item 361).
Foreigners benefit from education and care in all types of public nursery schools and schools until they turn 18 or complete upper secondary education on the conditions applicable to Polish citizens.
Educational services provided by public schools for adults, public post-secondary schools, public art schools, public establishments, public teacher training facilities and public colleges for social services employees as well as continuing education in form of qualifying vocational courses may be used, according to the conditions applicable to Polish citizens, by:
1) citizens of EU member states, of member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – parties to the agreement on the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) and Swiss Confederation, as well as their family members who have the right of residence or right of permanent residence;
2) persons of Polish origin as defined in the repatriation regulations;
3) persons who were granted in the territory of the Republic of Poland:
– permanent residence permit;
– supplementary protection, and their family members;
– tolerated residence permit;
– humanitarian residence permit, and their family members;
– temporary protection;
– residence permit for a long-term EU resident;
– temporary residence permit due to circumstances referred to in Art. 127, Art. 159 section 1, Art. 176 or Art. 186 section 1 point 3 or 4 of the Act of 12 December 2013 on Foreigners (Dz. U. [Polish Journal of Laws] item 1650);
4) persons who were granted the status of a refugee, and their family members;
5) family members of persons applying for the status of a refugee;
6) holders of a valid Card of the Pole;
7) persons in the case of which such entitlement results from international agreements;
8) holders of a residence card with the annotation “access to the labour market”, Schengen visa or national visa issued in order to perform work in the territory of the Republic of Poland;
9) scholarship holders receiving scholarships of the Minister of National Education, authority governing the school or the school headmaster.
According to the provision of the Art. 94a section 3 of the Act, all other foreign nationals may learn in public schools for adults, public post-secondary schools, public art schools, public establishments, public teacher training facilities and public colleges for social services employees as well as within continuing education in form of qualifying vocational courses against payment.
Since 1 May 2014, the amount of the fees and manner of payment, including expected education costs and the possibility of complete or partial exemption from this payment shall be specified by the authority governing the school.
Foreigners subject to schooling or education obligation who do not know the Polish language or whose knowledge of the Polish language is insufficient to obtain education have the right to additional free-of-charge Polish language lessons. Additional Polish language lessons are organised by the commune where the foreigner lives. The method of organisation of additional Polish language classes is specified in the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 1 April 2010 on the Enrolment of non-Polish Citizens to Public Nursery Schools, Schools, Teacher Training Centres and Facilities as well as Organisation of Additional Polish Language and Remedial Classes and Classes Focused on the Language and Culture of the Country of Origin (Dz. U. [Polish Journal of Laws] 2010, No. 57, item 361).
Foreign nationals may also take part in remedial classes concerning a given subject for 12 months.
The total duration of additional Polish language and remedial classes may be maximum 5 hours a weeks.
Means needed to implement the above solutions are financed with the educational subsidy. In the case of additional Polish language classes, additional means have been planned in the subsidy thanks to higher weights referring to children of foreigners taking part in these classes. The base amount per one such student (used to calculate the amount of the subsidy for particular local governments) is higher by ca. 20-150%, depending on the total number of students participating in such classes in a given school (Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 18 December 2013 on the distribution of the education-related part of the general subsidy between local government units in 2014).
Foreign nationals subject to the schooling or education obligation who do not know the Polish language or whose knowledge of the Polish language is insufficient to obtain education have the right to assistance provided by a person who can speak the language of their country of origin, employed as teacher assistant by the school headmaster for a period of 12 months maximum.
Foreign diplomatic agencies or consulates or cultural and educational associations of a given nationality can organise in a school, in agreement with the school headmaster and upon consent of the governing authority, courses in the language and culture of the country of origin for foreign nationals subject to the schooling obligation.
Facilitations for non-Polish students who take external examinations in the school year 2014/2015.
Lower secondary school leaving examination – Announcement of the Head of the Central Examination Board of 29 August 2014.
Credited students (non-credited students) who receive psychological and educational assistance at school in the school year 2014/2015 due to adaptation difficulties related to previous education abroad, problems in linguistic communication or crisis or traumatic situation may take the lower secondary school leaving examination in conditions adjusted to their personal educational needs and psychological and physical capacities, based on a positive opinion of the teachers board issued in compliance with the manner specified in § 37 section 5 of the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 30 April 2007 on the Conditions and Methods for Evaluating, Classifying and Promoting Credited Students and Non-Credited Students as well as Test and Examination Procedures in Public Schools (Dz. U. [Polish Journal of Laws No. 83, item 562, as amended).
Matriculation examination – Announcement of the Head of the Central Examination Board of 29 August 2014.
Graduates who received psychological and educational assistance at school in the school year 2014/2015 due to adaptation difficulties related to previous education abroad, problems in linguistic communication or crisis or traumatic situation may take the examination in conditions adjusted to their personal educational needs and psychological and physical capacities, based on a positive opinion of the teachers board issued in compliance with the manner specified in § 59 sections 4 and 5 of the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 30 April 2007 on the
Conditions and Methods for Evaluating, Classifying and Promoting Credited Students and Non-Credited Students as well as Test and Examination Procedures in Public Schools (Dz. U. [Polish Journal of Laws No. 83, item 562, as amended).
Universities & Colleges
Compulsory education covers full-time compulsory education (up to the age of 16) and part-time compulsory education (up to the age of 18).
(classes & LLL)
Labor offices, NGOs
Informal education (support & coaching)
Labor offices, NGOs, local administration.
It should be emphasized that Poland as a "push country" does not have any specific procedures implemented in order to address educational needs of EU homeless migrants. This type of activity falls under the operations of different NGO and local government. Scarce (close to none) percentage of homeless EU citizens translates into lack of educational services addressed to this group.
INDIVIDUAL CASE STUDY
Among the causes of homelessness of immigrants we can indicate: bad social and economic situation in the country of origin (unemployment, eviction from the apartment), social pathologies (alcoholism, crime, domestic violence) as well as the conscious choice of lifestyle. Homelessness of Poles in wealthy European countries is often due to the bad financial situation in the country of destination, the lack of knowledge about the legal system, poor language skills and often low-skilled professional profile. Polish immigrants sometimes choose homelessness as an escape from the past, which supposedly distinguishes them from other nations. Although some of them own houses/ apartments in Poland, they make a conscious decision not to come back due to the shame resulting from the failure suffered or they treat their homelessness as a transitional situation. A large part of polish homeless migrants remain abroad because of their legal situation often caused by the alimony related debts.
One of the beneficiaries of Monar, Bożena is an example of a person, who forced by personal and economic situation left Poland to undertake a job in London and after few years found herself ill, alcohol addicted and rough sleeping on the streets of the capital city of England. Here she is sharing her story:
Bożena is a 50 years old Polish woman who came to UK 7 years ago seeking work. Unfortunately, due to her drinking she lost her job and became homeless. She spent the next 5 years either rough sleeping or living in squats in the UK. Both her physical and mental health started to deteriorate and she was often visiting local A&E departments. She had no recourse to public funds in the UK. She was refusing any form of help and stated that she would rather die in a park in London than be reconnected back to Poland.
INTERVIEW WITH BOŻENA:
1 . What was your professional situation before you left Poland?
I used to work as an office clerk, teacher's assistant, I also had my own flower shop
2. What was your health situation?
I suffered and still suffer from asthma and stomach ulcers
3. What was the situation with your family?
I lost my husband in 2006, I have two children.... but we don't keep in touch... I started drinking in 2007 after my husband's death, I lost my flower shop the same year...; I left Poland to escape the addiction, and I stayed sober for over 3 years
4. What was the situation with your friends?
I had a small group of close friends - especially one married couple. I had known them since we were kids.
5. How did you usually spend your free time?
I dedicated myself to my flower shop and flowers in general. I loved making wreaths and buquets...
6. What made you decide to leave the country?
I was unemployed when I had to close down my business, I had to start earning money...as simple as that
7. What were the difficulties you encountered abroad?
I lost my job (I used to clean offices) because of my asthma. I found myself in a very stressful situation which lead me straight back to alcoholism. I had no income, I lost my accommodation, I was living on the streets of London for over 5 years, sleeping in squats, parks, train stations.....
8. Before you moved abroad did you know where to look for help/assistance in the UK?
When I decided to move to London I did not take into consideration any kind of failure. I had never thought that I would end up rough sleeping on the streets.....
So, you didn't know where/how to look for a job?
Nor where to seek social support/assistance?
No. I learned that the hard way from other homeless Poles.
9. Where did the help come from?
One day, as I was in a clinic for my doctor's appointment I met a polish street-worker - Ania Chester form St Mungo's Broadway. We had a chat, she wanted to help me. Whatever she said though meant only one thing to me: they want to send me back to Poland. And at that point this was the last thing that I would consider. Given my deteriorating condition they decided to place me in a women's hostel where they visited me on daily basis. During that time I worked on my addiction and on my. It suddenly became clear to me that it was a last chance to change something in my life, otherwise I wouldn't be here today. I was reconnected to MONAR detoxification and therapy facility in Warsaw (Centrum Pomocy Bliźniemu Monar-Markot, Warszawa, ul. Marywilska 44a). I continued my treatment in Poland and now I live in a hostel before I move on with my life.
10. At his point what would you consider the most important in your life?
I need to find a job. I want to be independent again.
11. With this experience in mind, what do you think could be done in order to help people abroad who found themselves in a similar situation?
I guess that the reason I am where I am right now is that I was able to accept help from someone with a similar cultural background - Ania Chester that I mentioned before is originally from Poland, she speaks polish and she was able to understand me and I was able to understand her, especially because I was so scared that they just wanted to throw me out of England. She was able to explain to me what reconnection meant, she was able to assure me that I would not be left at the airport once we would get to Warsaw, that there was a place for me at Monar and that I will be taken care of. I guess this is what made a change, this is why I finally decided to come back, and believe me many outreach workers tried to help me before...
Bożena recently returned to her place of origin – she is trying to rebuild relationship with her family.