Migrant homelessness: ‘With the difficult housing situation, they simply end up on the streets’

Housing charities report growing concerns over the number of migrants falling into homelessness


Living in precarious, often overcrowded housing, in sometimes informal arrangements, migrants more than most find themselves at the sharp end of the housing crisis.

Now housing and migrant charities warn the shortage of affordable rental accommodation is increasingly seeing migrants fall into homelessness, sometimes only weeks and months after arriving in the country.

Tomasz Flinik (45), originally from Poland, is one half of the two-person team in the Dublin office of Polish charity Barka, who works with migrants from central and eastern Europe who have fallen through the cracks and ended up homeless.

Every day Flinik says he deals with migrants who have ended up sleeping rough, with the problem getting worse in recent times. “The situation has become very difficult … The work has doubled and tripled and more in comparison to last year,” he says.

Flinik, with the assistance of a translator, says the majority of migrants he works with would be recent arrivals from eastern Europe who have failed to find housing in Dublin.

“People usually come with some money but it is only enough to pay for the first few days, or week or two, to pay for a hostel, then they run out of money,” he says.

“With the difficult housing situation, they simply end up on the streets,” he says. “People we meet usually have been on the streets not years or months but a couple of weeks,” he adds.

Flinik, who was placed into an orphanage aged 11 in Poland and later a series of juvenile detention centres, credits Barka with turning his own life around.

As a young man he was moved into one of the charity’s residential communities on a farm outside the city of Poznań, set up to mainly assist people coming out of prison, homelessness or addiction.

More than two decades later he has gone on to become a team leader in Barka, running the same residential community before moving to Ireland a year ago.

With funding from Dublin City Council, the charity assists European Union migrants who wish to leave Ireland and return home.

Romania was the most popular country individuals sought help returning to over the past two years, followed by Poland, then Lithuania and Latvia.

In the first three months of this year Barka helped 51 migrants return home, twice the number during the same period the year before.

“The longer you live on the street, the more difficult it is to get out … It is catching people before they become rooted and entrenched, catching them and supporting them in going home,” Flinik says.

Staff in housing and homeless charities say it is commonly the case that migrants from other EU countries will have lined up short-term informal housing arrangements ahead of arriving in the country.

This is usually where a family member, friend or acquaintance agrees to put them up, with the intention they will move on into their own accommodation once they find their feet.

Ciara McGrath, a manager in homeless charity Crosscare’s housing and welfare information service, says people in these informal arrangements were at real risk of homelessness.

Despite being able to find employment quickly, the person is often unable to find a place of their own in the private rental market. “They find they can’t exit, there’s nowhere to move to,” she says.

After a period of months the informal arrangement then reaches a “crisis point” and breaks down, leaving the person or family homeless, she says.

Comparatively good wages and easy-to-find employment were a strong factor pulling people here, she says.

“If they don’t have a job on Tuesday they’ll have one the next Tuesday … There’s work for people, there’s plenty of work, it’s housing that’s the problem,” she says.

Many migrants were more likely to try to stick it out, even if it meant “sofa surfing” or living in seriously overcrowded housing, she says.

“We see situations of exploitation, people paying €400 or €600 and sharing a room with seven other guys,” she says.

For EU nationals who become homeless, some can end up “stuck” as they may not be eligible for social housing supports or the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap) to help secure private rental housing.

Current pressure on emergency accommodation meant it was now “much more of a struggle” to get someone in this situation a bed in homeless services, McGrath says.

There was also a noticeable increase in the numbers of families facing homelessness. “We are seeing well-established migrant families who are here years getting a notice to quit,” McGrath says.

Crosscare has been receiving “desperate emails” from families being evicted from homes where they had set down roots with their children, unable to find somewhere else in the same area, she says.

As a result of the shortage of affordable rental properties, many families were settling for overcrowded living conditions. “Two parents with a child might end up in a room in a house share with another migrant,” McGrath says.

Dermot Murphy, director of services at housing charity Depaul, agrees that migrants would more commonly be in “precarious” housing.

This could be subletting or sharing a room, potentially without the landlord’s knowledge, which he says “leaves them quite exposed to becoming homeless very quickly”.

While some homeless migrants might have arrived in the country with addiction or mental health problems, others slipped “through the cracks” after losing their job and being unable to pay rent, he says.

Latest figures from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) show migrants are disproportionately falling into homelessness.

The most recent DRHE monthly report outlined that of the 62 families who presented as homeless in February only half were Irish.

A quarter were families originally from other EU countries, about a fifth were from outside of the EU and a small number were from the UK.

Similarly, of the 141 single adults who became homeless in Dublin in February, 23 per cent were from other EU countries, with nearly half of those coming from Romania. Some 21 per cent were migrants coming from outside of the EU, with Somalia the most common country of origin.

The report said nine of the adults had recently arrived from abroad and four had come to the State on a refugee family reunification scheme.

Nationally, Department of Housing homeless figures show more than 11,740 people were in emergency accommodation in February, with migrants making up more than a third of the 8,369 homeless adults.

Outside the Capuchin Day Centre one Wednesday in mid-April, the faces of those in the queue waiting for meals tells a similar story – a mix of white Irish, African, Eastern European and Asian.

Alan Bailey (72), volunteer co-ordinator at the centre in Smithfield, recalls back when he started volunteering in the 1970s it would provide 20 to 30 meals a day, almost exclusively to Irish men living in homeless hostels.

Speaking in a supply room amid stacks of bread, baby food and boxes of tea bags, Bailey says volunteers are preparing to feed upwards of 700 people at lunch. “Everybody is welcome, you can have six different nationalities at one table and they’ll all get on,” he says.

“During the recession you had a lot of foreign nationals working on buildings, who were left high and dry with no work, no money, so they started coming in. We have all nationalities now,” he says.

The number of food parcels the centre hands out has increased from 1,100 a week to 1,400 in the space of a month, he says. “We do see a huge increase, we can’t put it down to any one group of persons because we don’t ask,” Bailey says.

“We mix well together here, because we’re not asking who you are, what you are, what’s your background. We all sit down together and have our meals,” he says.


Barka na pomoc imigrantom na Wyspach

Ponad 5,5 tys. osobom pomogła od początku działania na Wyspach organizacja Barka for Mutual Help. W związku z Brexitem pracy jest coraz więcej. O tym jak zmienia się sytuacja imigrantów w Irlandii i Wielkiej Brytanii rozmawiamy z Ewą Sadowską, koordynatorką organizacji w Londynie i Dublinie.

Jak zaczęła się historia Barki za granicą? 

– Barka UK była pierwszą Barką, która zaczęła pracować z imigrantami, ale wtedy organizacja już istniała za granicą. Zaczęło się od Holandii, gdzie w 1996 roku nasi przyjaciele Teresa i Jeron van De Loo założyli Stichting Barka Netherlands. Jej zadaniem było wspieranie działań Barki w Polsce. Tereska i Gerom na przykład zebrali środki na maszynę do dojenia kóz dla ekologicznego gospodarstwa, które prowadziliśmy. Pomagali nam także przy remontach oraz przysyłali holenderskich ekologów, którzy wspierali nas w organicznych uprawach ziemi, a także budowie ekologicznych domów.

W 2009 roku Stichting Barka zmieniła trochę profil działania, odpowiadając na zaproszenie gminy Utrecht, która nie radziła sobie z coraz większą liczbą bezdomnych i bezrobotnych Polaków. W tamtym czasie istniał ogromny problem z agencjami pracy, które na potęgę oszukiwały i wykorzystywały naszych rodaków.

Jednak jeszcze przed oficjalnym nawiązaniem współpracy urzędnicy przyjechali do Barki do Londynu, gdzie już od 2007 roku pomagaliśmy Polakom. W stolicy Wielkiej Brytanii działaliśmy wtedy na najwyższych obrotach, aż w czternastu dzielnicach.

Czy do Londynu też Barka przybyła na zaproszenie lokalnych władz? Jaki Londyn zastaliście, czy wielu było imigrantów, którzy nie radzili sobie z życiem na obczyźnie?

– Sytuacja wtedy była bardzo ciężka. Te obrazy, które pamiętam, kojarzą mi się z wojną w Afganistanie. Ludzie śpiący pod wiatami, na chodnikach, kartonach; po dwudziestu-czterdziestu… Wielu w ciężkim stanie, wykończonych życiem na ulicy, nieregularnym odżywianiem, alkoholem i narkotykami. Ogromne ilości ludzi przychodziły wtedy do dziennych centrów pomocy – głównie Polacy. Dużo było też bezdomnych z niepełnosprawnościami, na wózkach.

Brytyjscy urzędnicy i polski konsulat rozkładali ręce. Barka przyszła wtedy bardzo w sukurs, bardzo pomogła. Pierwszy konsul generalny, z jakim pracowaliśmy w Wielkiej Brytanii, pan Janusz Wach, bardzo przejmował się losem Polaków. Chodził z nami na wszystkie spotkania, jakie odbywaliśmy w dzielnicach. Bardzo interesowały się naszą działalnością także media, nawet tak duże jak BBC – towarzyszyły nam na ulicach Londynu.

W tym samym roku Barka rozpoczęła działalność w Dublinie. Jaka była wówczas sytuacja w stolicy Irlandii? Chyba nie była aż tak ekstremalna jak w stolicy Wielkiej Brytani?

– W 2007 pojechaliśmy do Dublina na rok dzięki dofinansowaniu z Senatu RP. Zaczęło się od tego, że otrzymaliśmy od organizacji pomocowych w Dublinie informacje, że i u nich panuje wysoka bezdomność wśród Polaków. Senat wsparł wówczas nasz projekt w Londynie i Dublinie, i to było dobre, że nie przyjechaliśmy na Wyspy z pustymi rękoma. Samorząd Dublina bardzo się ucieszył, że pojawiła taka organizacja jak Barka. Jednak ten projekt nastawiony był głównie na pomoc w znalezieniu i utrzymaniu pracy.

Wtedy jednak problem bezdomności w Irlandii nie był chyba tak duży…

– Tak, szczególnie w porównaniu z Londynem. Większość ludzi potrzebowała wsparcia psychologicznego, w napisaniu CV, w przygotowaniu się do rozmowy kwalifikacyjnej, zakupie wyposażenia do pracy czy pokryciu kosztu szkolenia, np. Safe Pass. Gdy roczny projekt się skończył, nie występowaliśmy ponownie do Senatu, ponieważ musieliśmy skupić jak najwięcej energii na Londynie, a też Dublin City Council nie był zainteresowany finansowaniem naszych działań. Na kilka lat zaprzestaliśmy działań na Zielonej Wyspie.

Sytuacja zmieniła się w 2011 roku, kiedy napisała do nas organizacja Mendicity. Poinformowała nas, że w Dublinie w wyniku kryzysu gospodarczego nasila się bezrobocie i bezdomność, a do ich centrum pomocowego przychodzi 5 razy więcej Polaków niż kiedyś. Większość z nich uzależniona. Zapytali, czy Barka by rozważyła przyjazd. Delegacja Mendicity przyjechała nawet do Londynu na wizytę studyjną.

Jak Dublin zmienił się przez te 5 lat? Mieliście porównanie sytuacji sprzed i w trakcie kryzysu…

– Centra dzienne były przepełnione naszymi rodakami. Język polski był wszędzie. Ludzie przychodzili nietrzeźwi. Zaczynało to przypominać te obrazy, jakie znaliśmy z Londynu.

Większość tych osób utraciła pracę w wyniku kryzysu, ale były też takie, które przyjechały do Irlandii na fali opowieści o tym, jak było kiedyś, nie zdając sobie sprawy, jak trudno jest obecnie o zatrudnienie z nierealistycznymi wyobrażeniami. Sporą grupę stanowiły też osoby ze starszego pokolenia, z przyzwyczajeniami jeszcze z PRL-u, którzy nie znali ani słowa po angielsku, przyzwyczajeni do tego, że państwo powinno się nimi zaopiekować, że fakt, iż mają dwie ręce i chęci, wystarczy do tego, by sobie poradzić. Zaskakująco dużo było tych osób w wieku 50, 60 plus. Oni często padali ofiarą wyzyskiwaczy, podpisywali “umowy” o pracę, które nie były nic warte.

Teraz minęło kolejne kilka lat i wydaje mi się, że w Irlandii nadszedł inny etap bezdomności. Doszły zwykłe rodziny, często z małymi dziećmi – ofiary kryzysu mieszkaniowego. Mniej widać Polaków śpiących na ulicach, wielu otrzymało miejsca w hostelach na pół roku, mają zasiłki, są świetnie zorientowani w irlandzkim systemie opieki społecznej, dostają mieszkania socjalne…

– Tak, to prawda. Jeszcze też zmieniły się nieco problemy tych osób, widać więcej narkomanów niż kiedyś. Kiedyś dominował alkohol, a teraz moim zdaniem jest to pół na pół. O rodzinach to też bardzo dobra obserwacja, kiedyś praktycznie nie zdarzało się, by bez dachu nad głową zostawała rodzina z dziećmi. Podobne zjawisko obserwujemy w Londynie.

Zmienił się też przedział wiekowy, jest więcej osób młodych. Spotykamy także więcej osób z problemami mentalnymi. Część osób przyjeżdża już z problemami, a u innych pojawiają się one w wyniku trudnego życia na ulicy. Kiedyś też rzadziej zwracały się do nas o pomoc więzienia. Teraz i w Londynie, i Dublinie mamy zdecydowanie więcej zapytań o odwiedziny czy informacje o Polakach, którzy wkrótce wychodzą na wolność i będą potrzebowali wsparcia.

Chciałabym nawiązać do osób z problemami mentalnymi. W październiku w dublińskim Dochas Centre odebrała sobie życie Polka, matka dwójki dzieci. Kobieta wykazywała jeszcze przed trafieniem do więzienia skłonności do samookaleczania. Ta tragedia rodzi pytanie, czy migranci w Irlandii mają dostateczny dostęp do pomocy psychologicznej i terapeutycznej?

– Ta sytuacja pokazuje, że jednak jest tu jeszcze sporo do zrobienia. Z tego, co obserwujemy, to ogólnie rzecz biorąc, instytucje i organizacje w Irlandii są bardzo nastawione na człowieka. Ale jednak jest tu o tyle trudność, że przebywa tu wielu obcokrajowców, którzy mają inną mentalność, kulturę, a do tego dochodzi bariera językowa. Wielokrotnie podczas wizyt w więzieniach osoby mówią nam, że czują się niedostatecznie słyszane. Nawet ci, którzy mówią coś niecoś po angielsku, mają poczucie, że to nie jest ten sam poziom traktowania, co obywateli irlandzkich. Być może jest to ich subiektywne odczucie, ale może jest jeszcze coś do zrobienia…

W Wielkiej Brytanii pojawił się kolejny problem – Brexit. Jak jest on odczuwany w dziedzinie pomocy społecznej?

– Widać, że osoby wyjeżdżają z Wielkiej Brytanii. Spotykamy Polaków z Wysp wszędzie tam, gdzie pracujemy za granicą: w Islandii, Holandii, Irlandii, Niemczech, Belgii. Wyjeżdżają ze względu na niepewność, jaki będzie status Polaków po opuszczeniu Unii Europejskiej przez Wielką Brytanię.

Również organizacje pomocowe żyją w niepewności. Mogę powiedzieć na przykładzie Welcome Centre Healthy Living Project w Redbridge, z którym współpracujemy, że tam pracownicy są kompletnie zdezorientowani i zestresowani tym, że będą musieli posiąść ogromną ilość nowej wiedzy, by doradzać tym, którzy przychodzą po informacje i wsparcie. Poza tym też kierownictwo nie wie jeszcze, jak będzie musiało postępować z pracownikami imigracyjnymi. To jest bardzo trudna sytuacja.

Dla Barki paradoksalnie Brexit jednak da większe pole do popisu. Miesiąc temu zaprosiła nas kolejna dzielnica Londynu – Waltham Forest. Tam podobno są całe połacie lasków, gdzie Polacy koczują w namiotach. Władze tej dzielnicy powiedziały nam, że w związku z Brexitem bardzo się zawężają opcje pomocy dla na przykład Polaków, więc Barka będzie bardzo potrzebna. Władze nie chcą deportować ludzi, chcą im raczej pomagać. Oczywiście, jeśli będą to osoby, które nic od siebie nie dają, nigdy nie pracowały na Wyspach, to dla nich jedyną opcją będzie deportacja, ponieważ będzie im groziła śmierć na ulicy. Zamiast deportować, władze wolą dawać najpierw możliwość dobrowolnego powrotu poprzez Barkę.

Czy już wiadomo, jakie konkretnie przywileje stracą Polacy?

– Na razie nic jeszcze nie jest pewne, ale z tego, co mówili przedstawiciele dzielnicy Waltham Forest, to nie będzie możliwości korzystania z bezpłatnej opieki medycznej na przykład. Co gorsza, w tej dzielnicy nie ma ani jednego dziennego centrum pomocowego, co jest ewenementem w Londynie. Jest tylko grupa terenowa i centrum doradztwa, ale tam pracują tylko Brytyjczycy, nikt nie mówi po polsku. A tymczasem ci nasi rodacy, którzy koczują w namiotach, w większości nie znają angielskiego. Dla dzielnicy Barka to ogromny ratunek.

Czy bezdomni z Wielkiej Brytanii wracają do Polski?

– Myślę, że dla wielu tych ludzi, którzy już byli na emigracji w Wielkiej Brytanii, nie jest problemem wyjechać do pracy do Holandii, Niemiec. Raczej próbują szczęścia w innych krajach Europy Zachodniej niż w Polsce.

Jakie są najważniejsze plany Barki na przyszłość?

– Jednym z najciekawszych działań rozwojowych jest Norfolk na północy Anglii, gdzie pewna pani przekazała dom i ziemię, by powstała tam wspólnota na wzór tych, które funkcjonują w Barce w Polsce. Jesteśmy w trakcie przygotowywania tego projektu. Jest to dom do remontu i około 20 hektarów ekologicznej ziemi. Planujemy tam uprawiać organiczne warzywa i owoce do sprzedaży w lokalnych restauracjach. W ten sposób będziemy pozyskiwać fundusze na utrzymanie wspólnoty. Chcielibyśmy zacząć od małej grupy około 7 osób, a docelowo dojść do 18. To ma być grupa mieszana – nie tylko imigranci, ale także Brytyjczycy. Byłaby to pierwsza wspólnota Barki poza granicami Polski.

Nadal chcemy też realizować nasz program powrotów, który się bardzo dobrze sprawdza.

Podsumowując naszą rozmowę, ilu osobom pomogła Barka od początku działania na Wyspach?

– W Wielkiej Brytanii od początku działalności pomogliśmy około 5 tys. osób, a w Irlandii 500 – mówimy o samych powrotach.

Dziękuję za rozmowę.

Źródło: Londynek.net

‘There was no key to the room so I couldn’t lock the door and people were on drugs’

Bad tenancies and ignorance of rights have seen more central and eastern European men become homeless in Dublin

Aleksander Kurowski (41), a Pole, spent 12 years working in Ireland before he fell ill in January last year, requiring emergency bowel surgery. His illness, and the long recovery that followed, left him too weak to work.

The illness started a downwards spiral. Not long afterwards Kurowski’s landlord of seven years decided to sell his apartment. He challenged the notice, managing to stay on for a year. Eventually, however, he had to leave, but could not find a home elsewhere.

In May, Kurowski, who worked for a decade as a cleaner and then in a laundry, ended up in a homeless hostel. “It was strange, sometimes I felt frightened,” he says, in a quiet voice. “There was no key to the room so I couldn’t lock the door and people were on drugs.”

With the help of a translator he explains that he stayed for a few days in the Brú Aimsir hostel on Thomas Street, Dublin, before moving in with a friend. Worried about overstaying his welcome, he left after five weeks and found a bed at the Spire Hostel on Malborough Street.

He is just one of a growing number of mostly male central and eastern Europeans becoming homeless, accelerated by precarious tenancies, ignorance about rights and benefits, or, simply, the consequences of exploitation.

Many come with no idea of how hard it is to get a place to stay in Ireland or the cost of living, says Ciara McGrath of Crosscare. “Many of those we meet are in employment but homeless, but also because a lot of people on an industrial wage in Ireland really struggle. The cost of living here is so high money doesn’t go very far.

“They have more precarious living arrangements and often share with other families. We’re seeing people in tenancies for 7-9 years and then landlords decide to sell or renovate,” McGrath tells The Irish Times.


Less than one in 12 of the 535,475 non-Irish people in the State are unemployed, but 22.5 per cent are at risk of poverty compared to 15.7 per cent of Irish people, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). A third own property, compared to nearly 80 per cent of Irish people.

A European national can stay for three months in Ireland with no income, but, with rare exceptions, cannot qualify for benefits. Despite stories to the contrary, most dole applications from new arrivals are refused. After three months they must show that they have a right to reside in the State.

EEA nationals who find work but become unemployed or unfit for work due to illness or injury can qualify for supplementary welfare benefits for up to six months, although social housing benefits only come if they have worked for a year, and have registered as a job seeker.

EU nationals can only be removed from Ireland if they pose a “genuine, present and sufficient serious threat” to the State, according to the 2015 European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) regulations. This, said the Department of Justice, is “not a deportation order”.

Similar rules are laid down by the EU Citizens’ Rights Directive, though some EU states, including Ireland and the UK, are interpreting the rules in such a way that people found guilty of minor offences can be removed.

People from countries that joined the EU since 2004 – mostly eastern Europeans – can qualify for repatriation if they are destitute and are referred by welfare officials to the Department of Justice’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA).

Route home

Such people are offered a route home as soon as one is “practicable and cost efficient”, said an RIA spokesman. So far this year 55 people from central and eastern European countries have done so.

Some 43 did so to Romania. Four each returned to Slovakia and Hungary; two went back to Lithuania; and one to both Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Repatriation is not offered twice, so anyone who misses a booked flight will not get a second chance.

A small minority are gaming the system. “Only 3 per cent of people try to use the system to their advantage, but by just offering to send people home you’re sending a message that there’s money for flights. People should know it’s a once-off,” said one source.

Dermot Murphy, director of services at the DePaul homeless charity, says few immigrants want to go back. “It’s not our role to make anybody go home; our principle is to provide people with the best available information so they can make an informed decision.”

Agreeing that a lack of knowledge about housing rights and entitlements is worsening foreign homelessness, Mr Murphy said nearly 5 per cent of newly homeless people who visited the charity in recent months came from Poland. Another 5 per cent came from Romania.

Ewa Sadawska, director of Barka Ireland, which offers its own repatriation aid, has noticed a rise in the number of eastern and central Europeans who have come from England and Scotland sleeping on Dublin’s streets. Many have come because they fear life in a post-Brexit UK, she says.

Since 2011, Barka has helped more than 500 to return home. In the first six months of this year it assisted 37 people – 16 Poles, 10 Lithuanians, six Latvians and four Hungarians. Last year it helped 68.

Try their luck

Most central and eastern Europeans who end up on Dublin’s streets are in their 50s and 60s, says Sadawska.

“Many from the communist generation have the mentality that everything should be provided. Quite a lot of our beneficiaries are 50-plus and have bad English but came to Ireland to try their luck.”

Drinking heavily

Santaro disputes the claim that Brexit is already pushing more central and eastern Europeans to move from the UK to Ireland. So the numbers Mendicity has found are “tiny”.

Figures from Merchant’s Quay Ireland found that a quarter of the 5,600 people who visited it last year were foreigners, including 305 Romanians, 254 Poles, 214 people from African countries and 114 people from the UK. The majority are men, and most are aged between 30-44.

One man there, who came to Ireland in 2003 and worked for years as a chef before he began drinking heavily and became homeless, he says, because he was jailed for three years for stealing a pair of runners

“All my family were heavy alcoholics. I always thought I was strong but now when I look in the mirror I see my father,” says the man, who claims his employer gave him drink as his addiction grew to ensure he finished his shift.

Following his prison term, he says he spent four months sleeping in parks and on the Liffey boardwalk. Today he has a room in a hostel, and works sporadically as a chef. Asked if he would like to return to Poland, he says no.

“I love this city and I see my future here. I haven’t drunk now in five weeks. For me the important thing is not money, it’s my health. I’m not 20 years old anymore. Merchant’s Quay has helped me stand up. I think the people here really care.”

Sorcha Pollak


Conference in Ethiopia

INISE presents at a conference in Ethiopia

On 28 – 31 January, representatives of INISE: Baiba Dhidha Mjidho, Magdalena Chwarscianek and Ewa Sadowska took part in a conference on the Milenium Development Goes and Africa’s development organised by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy ( ICD ) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference focused on detailed analises of the geo-political, economic and social situation in selected African countries in relation to the implementation of Milenium Development Goals as well as the prospects for further development after 2015. 

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Best wishes

Leszek, leader at BarkaIE celebrated his 60th birthday on January, the 10th . There was birthday cake, singing Polish ‘Sto lat’ and lots of congratulations to honour his day.

Leszek Best wishes

Barka in Dutch daily paper “Trouw”

The Dutch daily , ‘Trouw’ published an article about Barka’s work for the homeless migrants from Poland and other Middle and Eastern European countries in Holland, Great Britain and Ireland. The Trouw journalist visited Barka Network programmes around Poznan in Poland, among them: a community home in Posadówek, where he spoke to persons, who returned to Poland after being homeless in Holland and in the UK.

Polish people find shelter in the homeland
Ekke Overbeek,

Polish organization Barka helps in the big Dutch cities the homeless immigrants to return home. Polish people, who have nowhere to go, can join community homes in Poland. Like the one in Posadowek, about 40 km from Poznan.

The men sit silently around the table. Stasiek says: ‘The best spot for the night is at the IJ-riverside in Amsterdam North. Take the ferry behind the station and there will always be an empty boat.Usually the owners do not make trouble’. Yet, sometimes they do. ‘Once two guys came to chase me away. Just as I wanted to go on the pier, they said: No, along there. They pointed to the water.’ I walked round in wet clothes for three days. ‘It was cold, very cold’.

Bad luck put a stop to Stasiek’s career as a handy-man in the Netherlands. ‘What happened, I do not know. It drizzled and the last thing I saw was a white truck. After three days I recovered in the hospital.’ His knee was ruined. Money run out and he ended up on the street.

After two and a half years of being homeless he got the offer to return to Poland. ‘I had thought I was on my own in this world. I could not imagine, that there was something like a shelter,’ says Stasiek, who has never heard about Barka.

This shelter is in Posadowek, it is a former farm standing in bare meadows. Stasiek is helping on a daily basis in the kitchen of the community and he works in a second-hand shop. ‘Sometimes I long for going back to Amsterdam. But here, I got the peace and the time to think how it will be.’ Recently he has got his welder certificate. ‘I think I will try to obtain the LGV driving licence. You never know what can be useful in your life.’

The group of people like Stasiek, who returned to Poland, is fairly new. In 2007 Barka UK was established, shortly after that Barka IE. Since then, more than 2000 Polish citizens who were stranded on the Isles, returned. Among the 150 East-Europeans, whom Barka assisted in the Netherlands, 110 were Poles. Two third of them was able to go back to their homes. Others got sheltered in the communities, like Posadowek.

In the early 90s there wasn’t any large scale labour migration to Western Europe. In Poland, there was enough misery. Big governmental enterprises went bankrupt. Thousands had nothing. Barka was established for them. Barka means literally ‘barge’ figuratively ‘lifeboat’.

‘Everybody said that my parents went mad’, says Maria Sadowska. She was too little to remember how her parents, in the middle of the winter, with a group of outcasts founded the first living community; two high-born university graduates with toddlers, in a house full of hardened criminals, ex-prostitutes and homeless. ‘All sins under one roof.’

But the Sadowski’s were tough fellows. Twenty years later, their life work has developed into a network of social work places, living communities and reintegration projects. ‘From the point, that Poland joined the EU, the financing became much easier’ says Maria in the center for social integration in Poznan. The cabinet is full of tributes: photo of Sadowski and the Polish president, the Ford Foundation Award, a charter from Pope John Paul II.

Most of the Polish have heard about Barka. ‘I remember seeing a story about Barka on TV’, says Jozek. ‘But I have never thought I would end up here.’ His daughter evicted him, just after his girlfriend died. ‘Like disused furniture’ he concludes bitter. Now he is the leader of the community in Posadowek. He carefully peels organic apples from own breed and places the pieces in the bowl. ‘It is not exactly like in a family. But still, it is our home.’

Barka in Dutch NOS television


Extension of Reconnection and Reintegration Initiative with Barka

Dublin Region Homeless Executive Newsletter

Initiative supports 27 Eastern European migrants to return home and exit homelessness

A joint initiative between Dublin City Council (DCC), Mendicity Institution (Charitable Trust) and Barka (Polish NGO) has successfully reconnected 27 Eastern European migrants who were formerly homeless back to their homeland.

The initiative was set up in January 2012 and the Steering Group for teh Initiative set a target of reconnecting and reintegrating 20 individuals back home, this was exceeded and the initiative has been extended for a further six months.

The initiative emerged as a significant and timely next step from the decision to provide designated emergency accommodation at Charlemont St. (and subsequently North Frederick St.) for non Irish nationals in July 2011, and to provide the opportunity for an agreed interagency cooperation to be established between DCC, Crosscare, Depaul Ireland, and the New Communities Unit, Department of Social Protection(DSP), which is focused on a target group of migrants consistently presenting to homeless services. The role and visibility of the Mendicity Institution Day Centre was equally as important as DCC, as many of the residents of North Frederick Street access meals and support and this provides a very positive environment for engagement from Barka.

The success of the initiative comes down to the engagement with project ‘leaders’ from Barka. These are individuals who have experienced hardship themselves and have spent a period of their lives homeless and rough sleeping. The nature of the contact is time intensive, as it requires building trust and confidence with each individual to influence consideration to the reconnection option. The Barka team had over 2,500 contacts with over 60 individuals in the term of the six month pilot programme.

Within the current regulatory context, DCC acts as the provider of ‘last resort’ to those who have lost employment and who do not qualify for welfare support. This combined with the complexity of personal issues that individuals are experiencing, presents a significant challenge to the local authority and other statutory and voluntary services to be in a position to provide meaningful solutions.

Providing stabilised accommodation provided for the first time the ability to establish a detailed profile of the migrant group and their experience in homelessness. It was effective in compiling detailed information on the majority of residents with their consent, establishing status and entitlements and referrals to DSP for further action and decision. There were positive outcomes for a number of residents in this regard, which enabled further supported intervention towards an exit from homelessness.

Source: Dublin Region Homeless Executive Newsletter

Interviews with media

On the 25th and 26th of March two interviews with Barka IE representatives were held. The first interview was for the national Irish newspaper and a second for the Irish radio station.

Both interviews were with regards to the problem of homelessness of Eastern European migrants in Ireland, the economic crisis and the general lack of jobs.

The journalists asked about the work of Barka IE and other Barka’s branches across Europe. There was a question about the work of Barka Leaders and Assistants, level of addictions of the homeless Poles, the social situation of homeless A10 migrants in Ireland, the Reconnections Project to the home countries, integration and vocational training programmes within the Barka Network and about the forms of active social policy in Poland.
The copies of these interviewes will be posted on Barka websites.