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EUROPEAN RESEARCH CONFERENCE HOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY IN EUROPE International and European Perspecti

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Title: EUROPEAN RESEARCH CONFERENCE HOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY IN EUROPE International and European Perspecti


1
EUROPEAN RESEARCH CONFERENCEHOMELESSNESS AND
POVERTY IN EUROPE International and European
PerspectivesPARIS, 18TH SEPTEMBER 2009
  • Seminar 6 Homelessness and Poverty National
    Case Studies
  • Homelessness in Croatia
  • Lynette ikic-Micanovic (Institute of Social
    Sciences, Ivo Pilar, Zagreb)

2
Introduction
  • HOMELESS STUDY CROATIA 2009
  • pioneering national study -- first qualitative
    study with the homeless in Croatia
  • project is in its initial stages fieldwork
    started earlier this year
  • aims to provide a fuller understanding of the
    perceptions and experiences of the homeless in
    Croatia
  • This project is funded by the ERSTE Foundation

3
Post-transition Croatia
  • Post-transition countries experienced significant
    socio-economic and political changes in which
    economic reforms and political liberalisation
    transformed institutional structures, including
    social services, beyond recognition.
  • Social policy in socialist countries was part of
    the ideology integrated in the political systems
    and part of the political rhetoric
  • Some advantages included
  • full employment, social security, food/ flat
    subventions, free health care, free education,
    gender equality, etc
  • (although some authors have argued in reality
    these social policies were far from idealsome
    were more privileged Szalai Zrincak)

4
Post-transition Croatia
  • The transition phase of the Croatian economy from
    a socialist to a market economy was complicated
    by the war (1991-1995)
  • This had a devastating impact on Croatias
    economic and social fabric characterised by
    hyperinflation and a decline in output,
    especially industrial output, depreciation of
    the countrys currency, increasing rates of
    unemployment, higher levels of poverty, and the
    growth of an informal economy
  • (Human Development Report 1997).
  • -produced an enormous population of poor
    unemployed persons, displaced persons, refugees
    dependant on relatives, friends, humanitarian
    organizations and the state
  • -marked lack of NGOs in Croatia in the early
    1990s

5
Post-transition Croatia
  • Studies have found that there was a rapid and
    large growth of social inequalities in all
    transition countries (Bicanic Franicevic, 2005)
  • -elimination of job security/higher
    unemployment
  • -increasing social insecurity (adequate health
    care/social benefits)
  • -decrease in living standard (explosion of
    public utility and food prices)

6
Research on poverty in Croatia
  • Knowledge about the incidence and scope of
    poverty in Croatia is very limited as little
    academic research was conducted on poverty until
    late 1990s in Croatia
  • There is no official poverty line in Croatia
  • -survey-based social statistics were not
    developed in Croatia in the pre-transition period
  • There was no need for data on poverty,
    inequality during socialism /this phenomena was
    largely ignored by policymakers

7
Research on poverty in Croatia
  • However since transition, there has been an
    increasing need for this kind of data.
  • Some examples of studies on poverty carried out
    since transition
  • 1) World Bank and the Central Bureau of
    Statistics (Croatia) conducted joint national
    research on poverty in 1998 (World Bank, 2001),
  • -a measure of absolute poverty was used, based
    on the FoodEnergy Intake (FEI) method
  • -it was found that about 5 of the population
    was below the poverty line.

8
Research on poverty in Croatia
  • 2) Poverty Monitoring Study (Centre for the
    Promotion of Social Teachings of the Church and
    Croatian Caritas)
  • -investigated financial difficulties of
    households, subjective poverty, trust in
    institutions, attitudes towards public assets,
    solidarity and willingness
  • 3) UNDP study - Human Development Report
    2006-comprehensive analysis of social exclusion
    issues in Croatia and examines the ways in which
    individuals and groups of people may find
    themselves socially marginalized due to limited
    access to social services, employment, education,
    housing, and human rights.

9
Research on poverty in Croatia
  • Shortcomings
  • very little statistical data are available on
    poverty dynamics in Croatia (on how long people
    remain in poverty and what happens to them during
    that period).
  • a number of vulnerable groups are either not
    sufficiently covered by research or else are too
    small or hidden from large-scale surveys such as
    the homeless

10
Homelessness in Croatia
  • The homeless have become an increasingly
    vulnerable group in Croatia and are the definite
    losers of the transition
  • Evidence
  • 1) only 1 of GDP for unemployed and the poor
    in Croatia (Babic 2007)
  • 2) more and more shelters have been opened,
    particularly in the last decade
  • -7 more shelters are planned throughout Croatia
    -- Pula, Vukovar, Slavonski Brod, Vinkovci,
    Dubrovnik, Sisak, and Petrinja)
  • 3) Media analysis -- only 10 articles were
    found on homelessness 20 years prior to 1991
    compared to over 400 in the following years.

11
Homelessness in Croatia
  • Following the collapse of socialism, Croatia was
    literally unprepared for a phenomenon such as
    homelessness
  • -marked lack of resources and understanding.
  • The homeless in Croatia
  • - no legal status there is no law in Croatia
    that guarantees the social inclusion of the
    homeless (enormous problems for persons with no
    addresses since benefits or rights to employment
    are only available through the welfare
    system/employment bureau based on county
    residence)
  • - no political representation/lobby groups no
    one is responsible for their welfare
  • - no national housing programme for vulnerable
    groups such as the homeless
  • -no national prevention programmes (e.g., for
    youth who grew up in institutions)

12
Homelessness in Croatia
  • Rough estimates on the number of homeless range
    around 400 for Zagreb, between 50-100 for Osijek,
    around 30 in both Split and Rijeka, and between
    20-25 in Varadin (Beovan 2008)
  • No qualitative research has been conducted with
    this marginalised group as yet (only one
    quantitative study was conducted on the
    socio-demographic features of the homeless in
    Zagreb in 2002 (Bakula-Andelic ostar 2006).

13
Research Methodology
  • As almost no ethnographic research has been
    conducted with the homeless in Croatia, this
    study aims to contribute new data (on a
    completely unresearched social group in Croatia)
  • Anthropological field methods
  • participant observation and in-depth
    interviews/life histories
  • (with special attention to ethical
    considerations since this work is with a
    marginalised population in crisis).

14
Research Methodology
  • Fieldwork was carried out in 7 cities
  • Zagreb (capital) Varadin Karlovac Osijek
    Rijeka Split and Zadar by our team of
    researchers from the Institute Ivo Pilar and a
    number of students
  • Since the homeless are a hard-to-reach group,
    research was mainly conducted at shelters
    throughout Croatia (arrangements were always made
    with shelter coordinators prior to fieldwork).
  • Shelter life can offer a number of provisions
    such as food water, shelter, security, safe
    sleep, a place for their possessions, health
    care, structure to their day, companionship,
    independence, dignity, self respect, hope (but
    this largely depends on the shelter i.e., their
    objectives, services and the staff)

15
Field locations
16
Research Methodology
  • Sample more men (60) than women (6)
  • -Men more frequently use shelters of this type
    (separate facilities for women are often not
    available or are inappropriate).
  • The project was designed to give voice to
    participants
  • - interview transcriptions are collections of
    their perspectives that were sometimes confirmed
    or refuted by other shelter users and shelter
    workers (credibility issue)
  • Sample of women still too small for statistical
    analysis

17
Shelter Sample
  • Homeless Study 2009
  • Ages of research participants
  • N57

18
Shelter Sample
  • Marital status
  • Over half of the males in this sample are
    divorced (55) while a third are single (33)
  • Education
  • Most of the males in this sample finished
    secondary school (69) while a quarter either
    have only 4 or 8 grades of primary school (25).
    Only three have completed a tertiary education.

19
Shelter Sample
  • Years of formal employment (prior to homelessness)

20
Shelter Sample
  • N.B. None of the research participants had
    full-time/part-time jobs in the formal economy at
    the time of interview

21
Shelter Sample
  • Periods of Homelessness

22
Paths into homelessness
  • Their paths into homelessness include
  • -violence and trauma (abuse and neglect) in
    childhood (dysfunctional families,
    institutionalised childhoods)
  • -job loss and not being able to get another job
    (even after years of work experience)
  • -poor health
  • -family break-up following divorces
  • -loss of home/displacement due to war
  • -imprisonment
  • -flight from abusive relationships

23
Social exclusion and marginalisation
  • Findings show that the homeless in this study are
    not only economically poor but often culturally,
    socially and symbolically poor)
  • -low earnings/no economic capital/limited
    resources
  • -low-educational backgrounds/lack of cultural
    capital
  • -lack social networks
  • -no political/social/ symbolic power
  • They are often excluded and marginalized from
    participating in activities (economic, social,
    cultural, symbolic) that are the norm for other
    people

24
Ethnographic examples
  • Economic poverty
  • many participants in this study have financial
    problems and do not feel valued, independent or
    connected to others
  • Explanations
  • - they work in the shadow economy (e.g.,
    collection of recyclables-bottles, construction
    work, care work, etc) that is characterised by
    irregular work, difficult conditions, poor pay,
    lack of security, discrimination / ill-treatment
    and no health coverage
  • The risk of poverty is particularly high among
    this group because their low levels of education
    are combined with unemployment
  • N.B. Just over a third of the sample has bank
    accounts (37) while two thirds (63) do not have
    a bank account

25
Ethnographic examples
  • Nutritional poverty
  • Food (depending on the city) is
  • -sometimes only available once a day
  • -not available on Sundays
  • -soup kitchens are sometimes too far away and
    public transport is unaffordable
  • Many participants and shelter workers mentioned
    hunger as a problem of day-to-day living
    especially if they lack social networks (cravings
    for particular foods were very common)

26
Ethnographic examples
  • Nutritional poverty (cont.)
  • coping mechanisms that have been developed among
    the poor relating to food (e.g., producing ones
    own food, receiving food from relatives, cooking
    meals, fruit and vegetable gardens, food storage
    for winter) are not options for the homeless in
    this study
  • N.B. it is still legal to share food in public
    places in Croatia as there is no criminalisation
    of intervention

27
Ethnographic examples
  • Poor Health
  • Being sick is more complicated when you live in a
    shelter because remedies such as good nutritional
    food/special dietary food and rest are beyond
    reach
  • Strategies -often take aches and pains for
    granted -treat themselves by buying their own
    medications
  • -go to doctors who will make exceptions if
    they dont have cover
  • -dont go at all
  • N.B. Almost three quarters of sample (74) have
    health insurance while as many as a quarter (26)
    do not have health cover

28
Ethnographic examples
  • Poor health (cont.)
  • In addition, homeless people are further
    disadvantaged because they often have to cope
    with a whole range of health problems such as
  • Mental health problems (PTSP, schizophrenia,
    depression)
  • Addictions to nicotine, drugs, alcohol, gambling
  • Acute and chronic illnesses
  • Problem shelters often lack trained professional
    staff often dont even have a social worker

29
Ethnographic examples
  • Poor health (cont.)
  • Fatigue
  • -early mornings get up and out
  • -not able to sleep in
  • -do not have the luxury of staying in bed
  • -often are deprived of sleep because it is too
    noisy for them to sleep
  • -lack of privacy (men and women have to share
    sleeping/bathroom spaces)
  • -lack of security (often do not feel that they
    are safe or that their belongings are secure)
  • N.B. homeless persons can fall asleep in a public
    place and not get arrested for vagrancy)

30
Ethnographic examples
  • Social Poverty
  • The participants in this study often lack social
    capital networks to alleviate any hardship
  • - by choice (ashamed of their homelessness so
    hide it from others)
  • - or have been disconnected from former work
    circles of support or family support
  • - or have already exhausted all channels of
    assistance and do not wish to further burden
    relatives/friends

31
Ethnographic examples
  • Social poverty (cont.)
  • As a result their days often lack structure and
    meaning
  • - Shelter rules means that they have to be
    outdoors for 12 hours a day -- difficult when
    physical conditions are harsh (when it is cold,
    windy and raining outside) and when they are
    sick
  • -being alone (with nowhere to go and nothing to
    do) does not alleviate the psychic conditions of
    homelessness such as hopelessness, despair, and
    loneliness.

32
Concluding remarks
  • Need to take into account the cumulative effect
    of all these problems in a context of
    non-recognition, stigmatisation and lack of
    support
  • Homelessness is hard living particularly when
    their access to different forms of capital
    (economic, cultural and social) are limited no
    political/social/symbolic power
  • Findings from this study suggest that
    homelessness is a mortifying (Goffman) and
    impoverishing experience in which a person is
    stripped of all identity and deprived of so many
    rights (to housing, suitable healthcare, social
    services, a respectable job, self-dignity, social
    networks, legal rights, etc.)

33
Recommendations
  • Systematic monitoring of shelter users and the
    wider homeless population by teams of qualified
    persons (assessment of needs, provision of
    comprehensive information and assistance to
    people)
  • Programmes need to be developed at the local
    level to meet different contextual needs funds
    should be given to cities/local communities to
    develop their own continuum of care
  • e.g., Introduction of public bath houses, day
    centres, doctors/dentists surgery for the
    homeless, subsidized accommodation for homeless
    persons

34
Recommendations
  • Professional qualified and sensitized staff at
    shelters to deal with the wide scope of problems
  • Managers/supervisors at shelters to facilitate
    better communication with Ministries and other
    stakeholders for financial support
  • Organisation (among all age groups) of suitable
    voluntary work to increase public awareness of
    this problem
  • Introduction of prevention programmes-changes in
    social policy addressing the needs of those who
    are at risk of becoming homeless (eg
    institutionalised youth-child welfare
    institutions, youth who grew up in dysfunctional
    families

35
Thank you
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