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Warsaw’s comprehensive approach to homelessness

REAL ESTATEWarsaw's comprehensive approach to homelessness

Approximately 2.5 thousand individuals in Warsaw are affected by the homelessness crisis. Recent studies conducted a few years ago illustrate a shift in the dynamics of homelessness with over half of this group being chronically homeless. The fight to reverse this trend is a significant challenge, not only for the capital, but also for other cities and municipalities in Poland. Equally crucial is the objective to promote self-sufficiency among those confronting homelessness and accompanying housing programs. This is the goal of the initiative called First Housing, which provides extensive two-phase support to help individuals return to living independently. Such solutions have successfully been implemented for years, including in Finland.

Concerning the winter season, we have prepared an adequate number of shelters, specialized shelters, and overnight stays. The services, and city guard are ready. We also have prepared soup kitchens, a special bus line, and a number of street workers who are employed through competitions and work for NGOs funded by the city. This action plan is very extensive and engages both city institutions and NGOs, which are very important partners for us,” says Tomasz Pactwa to Newseria Biznes agency.

It is estimated that there are approximately 30-35 thousand people grappling with homelessness in Poland, of which around 2.5 thousand are in Warsaw alone. However, accurate numbers are hard to calculate as a part of this group remain completely outside the system.

According to the statistics, around 80% of people affected by the homelessness crisis in Warsaw are mostly older men, around the age of 50. Each homeless person’s story is a combination of several factors and reasons, not only addictions, but also, for instance, domestic violence, difficult financial situations, large increases in credit and loan debt, and sometimes severe illness or mental disorders.

Regarding the cause of homelessness, it’s always individual, but it’s often associated with various types of addictions. Approximately 75% of people in a homelessness crisis have one or more addictions, explains Tomasz Pactwa.

Warsaw has been running the First Housing program for several years in line with patterns adopted from Finland and in cooperation with partners there, covering about 120 people in 60 training apartments. The program was also tested in two other cities. Its aim is to create conditions for people in a homelessness crisis to return to normal functioning and achieve sustained independence. Statistics show that this method is effective – according to data from the Ministry of Family and Social Policy in Poland (MRiPS), only 11% of people counted as homeless achieve independence (data for 2021), while among people covered by training programs, independence is achieved by 70 to 90%.

Currently, we are developing a training program, so that we can help a larger number of people gain independence,” says Tomasz Pactwa.

However, he points out, there are not enough training apartments to help everyone, and similar programs should be implemented at the country level, instead of resting solely on the shoulders of local governments.

From the report “Overcome Homelessness 2023”, prepared by the All-Poland Federation for Solving the Problem of Homelessness, it follows that the overwhelming majority of Polish municipalities do not have strategies or programs to solve the problem of homelessness. They also do not carry out any actions aimed at preventing homelessness, focusing instead on interventional actions towards people already in a homelessness crisis, such as running shelters and hostels. The problem is, among others, the scattering of actions into various institutions and organizations, resulting in low efficiency of the initiatives undertaken, plus a lack of knowledge about the scale of the problem, lack of appropriate tools, ideas, and financial resources.

“What is undoubtedly needed by local governments at this time is additional financial support, so that we can broadly, consistently, and fully combat the phenomenon of homelessness. This is a difficult issue, I do not hide it, most European Union countries failed at this task. We all draw conclusions and analyze the example of Finland so that we can implement it across the country,” emphasizes Tomasz Pactwa.

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