Homeless centre draws on Salvation Army Norway experience
“I worked all my life on building sites until the moment I lost everything. Fortunately I met people from the NGO Vagus who gave me the possibility for a new life.”
Milan (31) was one of the estimated 4 000 people living on the streets in the Slovak capital Bratislava, which has a population of 600 000. While exact figures are unknown, one thing is certain; too many people are sleeping rough and the numbers are constantly growing.
There is no single reason why someone becomes homeless. Bereavement, traumatic past experiences, health problems, evictions, addictions, poverty and unemployment can all play their part. NGOs emphasise that better coordination between statutory and voluntary providers, to tackle multiple and complex needs, is vital to end homelessness. Joined-up support can help break the cycle of repeat homelessness.
Joined up services
After meeting with the Vargus association in Bratislava, Milan has since left the streets. He is now a client of DOMEC (HOUSE) - a day care and integration centre run by Vagus in the capital. This is the first facility of its kind in the country that offers the full range of services; from basic hygiene, clothing and food to expert counselling and assistance aimed at full integration of the clients back into society – with a permanent home, job prospects and an opportunity to build stable social networks.
Vagus received support from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Active Citizenship and Inclusion NGO Programme. The funding helped Vagus finish the construction work on a day care centre and to develop a programme of services which now helps around 19 000 clients each year in a number of ways. The achievements are impressive: 3 100 people have received specialist consultations; 280 clients are involved in leisure activities; 100 clients are involved in regular work activities; and, 12 clients have successfully completed the full integration process.
Salvation Army Norway has been actively involved as a partner in the project. They have a longstanding tradition as a service provider for homeless people and have helped Vagus to develop new skills and ways of working with the homeless. Particularly important has been their experience in street work and in seeking community ‘buy-in’, given the reluctance of many locals to accept a homeless day care centre ‘in their backyard’. Both partners have benefitted from exchange trips to learn more about the realities and challenges they each face in their respective home countries.
Milan is just one of many who is grateful for the opportunity for a fresh start:
“Firstly I was involved in the renovation of DOMEC, then in the building of the coffee house and finally I became a waiter in the coffee house Dobre – Dobré (Well – Good). This job is really different from my previous one, but I told myself, I have to try it. We had lot of training and workshops before we were hired. From 25 applicants, they hired 3 of us who have worked here from the start.
“At first I was afraid but now I can say I like it very much. This job gave me a new meaning in life. Rarely does one get a second chance. I do not know what the future brings, but I've got a chance for a new start,” he said.
Vagus has also since shared their experience, know-how and materials with 50 professionals from other NGOs through a series of seminars.
DOMEC - Low threshold day centre and Integration centre
Type of Institution:
Community-based Organization (NGO)
There are around 4000 people living on the streets in Bratislava. The objective of the project is to establish first Low threshold Day Care and Integration Centre called DOMEC in Bratislava for homeless people. DOMEC offers wider scale of services: hygiene, clothing, food and drinks up to very specific counseling and assistance that helps to full integration of the clients into society (permanent living, job placement, and social network). Project has a high ambitions to provide (12 months period) 18 800 clients daily access to Centre, 3 100 social advisements, 280 clients involvement in leisure time activities, 100 clients involvement in work activities and 12 clients who successful completed whole integration process. The project targets homeless people, 50 professionals from other NGOs that benefit with know-how, materials and seminars providing by Norwegian partner. Salvation Army Norway helps to NGO Vagus gain new skills and methods in work with homeless people in Bratislava.