Homelessness in Croatia


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Presentation given by Lynette Šikić-Mićanović, Institute of Social Sciences, Zagreb, Croatia at a FEANTSA Research Conference on "Homelessness and Poverty", Paris, France, 2009

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  • General outline of presentation: 1) Context Croatia prior to transition /post-transition 2) Research on poverty in Croatia 3) Homelessness in Croatia 4) Research Methodology/Field Locations 5) Demographic features of the sample: age, marital status, education, years of formal employment, present earnings, periods of homelessness 6) Paths to homelessness 7) Ethnographic examples 8) Concluding remarks 9) Recommendations
  • 5,000 -- Unofficial estimate for Croatia (CSW)
  • Ethnographic qualitative research is crucial to understand the needs and experiences of this marginalised group in Croatia that is not homogeneous
  • They range from shelter/emergency assistance to holistic assistance (life skills, therapy, housing, job training, etc.) Rehabi lit ation, resocialisation and reintegration
  • Men-average age 53 Women –average age 52
  • Female 3 divorced, 2 single, 1 widow Female 4 Prim, 1 Sec, 1 College
  • In contrast with a previous study that showed that women had no formal employment prior to their homelessness, the women in this study (e.g. school teacher for 38yrs; typist for 11 yrs) all worked with the exception of one
  • pensions --between 1000-3000 HRK /135-406EUR (invalid, war veteran, retirement) social assistance—between 500-1000 HRK /67-135EUR and also supplement their earnings by working in the shadow economy shadow economy (collecting plastic bottles, construction, maintenance/repair work, etc.) Female 2 pensioners ; 2 work in grey economy ; 1 social benefit 1 unknown
  • N.B. Living with relatives/friends is usually the last stage in their descent in homelessness followed by a life on the street and then shelter life Data not included on chart 6 participants spent some time in hospital/prison ranging from 2 months to 8 years Only 5 homeless persons stayed with ‘foster’ families for a length of time ranging from 8 months to 5.5 years. In an attempt deinstitutionalise care, the government has provided incentives to introduce this form of care throughout Croatia. However, this arrangement is only ‘culturally acceptable and feasible’ in some parts of Croatia.
  • Routes into homelessness often triggered by situational factors rather than being inherent in the individual
  • Work not only provides money but a means for an individual to become a valued member of society, a source of independence and connectedness to others
  • Egs Ivan, aged 65-saw a doctor for the first time 10 days before interview and has never been to the dentist’s –pullled his own teeth out (lived in a pipe for 20 years) Zoran, aged 22 never goes to the doctor's
  • Eg. A homeless person cannot work in the formal economy if he /she does not have an address or the right connections or if their health is poor or they are too poor to afford decent clothes .
  • Homelessness in Croatia

    1. 1. EUROPEAN RESEARCH CONFERENCEHOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY IN EUROPE – International and European Perspectives PARIS, 18TH SEPTEMBER 2009Seminar 6: Homelessness and Poverty: National Case Studies Homelessness in CroatiaLynette Šikić-Mićanović (Institute of Social Sciences, Ivo Pilar, Zagreb)
    2. 2. IntroductionHOMELESS 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. 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 ideal—some were ‘more privileged’ Szalai; Zrinščak)
    4. 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 Croatia’s economic and social fabric characterised by hyperinflation and a decline in output, especially industrial output, depreciation of the country’s 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. 5. Post-transition Croatia Studies have found that there was a rapid and large growth of social inequalities in all transition countries (Bićanić & Franičević, 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. 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. 7. Research on poverty in CroatiaHowever 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 Food–Energy Intake (FEI) method -it was found that about 5% of the population was below the poverty line.
    8. 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. 9. Research on poverty in CroatiaShortcomings: 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. 10. Homelessness in Croatia The homeless have become an increasingly vulnerable group in Croatia and are the definite losers of the transitionEvidence: 1) only 1% of GDP for unemployed and the poor in Croatia (Babić 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. 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. 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 Varaždin (Bežovan 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-Anđelić & Šostar 2006).
    13. 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. 14. Research Methodology Fieldwork was carried out in 7 cities: Zagreb (capital); Varaždin; 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. 15. Field locationsName of Location Year of Capacity Capacity/shelter establishment /men womenRed Cross Zagreb 1943 65 25City of Zagreb Zagreb 1992 76 10Caritas/Rakitj Zagreb 2003 45-50 -eCity of Varaždin Varaždin 2001 14 3Caritas/Osijek Osijek 1999 10 10MOST Split 2000 16 -MOST Split 2003 - 8Ruže sv. Franje Rijeka 2007 13 -Caritas/Zadar Zadar 2007 12 4HVIDR Karlovac 2008 8 -
    16. 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. 17. Shelter SampleHomeless Study 2009 Ages of research participantsN=57 20s 30s 40s 50s 60s 70s
    18. 18. Shelter SampleMarital 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. 19. Shelter SampleYears of formal employment (prior to homelessness) 1-10yrs 10-19yrs 20-29yrs 30-36yrs
    20. 20. Shelter SampleN.B. None of the research participants had full-time/part- time jobs in the formal economy at the time of interview pensions social assistance shadow econom y
    21. 21. Shelter Sample Periods of Homelessness2018161412 relatives/friends10 street8 shelter6420 rs rs rs s s s s yr yr yr yr yr 5y 0y 0y 1 2 6 8 40- -1 -2 1 1- 3- 5- 7- 9- 11 16
    22. 22. Paths into homelessnessTheir 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. 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. 24. Ethnographic examplesEconomic poverty many participants in this study have financial problems and do not feel valued, independent or connected to othersExplanations: - 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 coverageThe risk of poverty is particularly high among this group because their low levels of education are combined with unemploymentN.B. Just over a third of the sample has bank accounts (37%) while two thirds (63%) do not have a bank account
    25. 25. Ethnographic examplesNutritional 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 unaffordableMany 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. 26. Ethnographic examplesNutritional poverty (cont.) coping mechanisms that have been developed among the poor relating to food (e.g., producing one’s own food, receiving food from relatives, cooking meals, fruit and vegetable gardens, food storage for winter) are not options for the homeless in this studyN.B. it is still legal to share food in public places in Croatia as there is no criminalisation of intervention
    27. 27. Ethnographic examplesPoor 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 reachStrategies: -often take aches and pains for granted -treat themselves by buying their own medications -go to doctors who will make exceptions if they don’t have cover -don’t go at allN.B. Almost three quarters of sample (74%) have health insurance while as many as a quarter (26%) do not have health cover
    28. 28. Ethnographic examplesPoor 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 illnessesProblem: shelters often lack trained professional staff; often don’t even have a social worker
    29. 29. Ethnographic examplesPoor 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. 30. Ethnographic examplesSocial PovertyThe 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. 31. Ethnographic examplesSocial 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. 32. Concluding remarksNeed to take into account the cumulative effect of all these problems in a context of non-recognition, stigmatisation and lack of supportHomelessness is hard living particularly when their access to different forms of capital (economic, cultural and social) are limited = no political/social/symbolic powerFindings 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. 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, doctor’s/dentist’s surgery for the homeless, subsidized accommodation for homeless persons
    34. 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. 35. Thank you