The homeless: not only a home

The Catholic Church's proposal for integral social inclusion

Homelesness threatens thousands of people and their number gradually grows. That’s why the Council Iustitia et Pax of the Czech Bishops’conference, headed by bishop Václav Malý, has issued a statement regarding one of the biggest challenges of a modern society. The document is a reaction to the Concept of prevention and solution of homelesness until 2020, recently introduced by the Czech government. Business with poverty? It’s estimated that about hundred thousand of people in the Czech republic are homeless or are endangered by this phenomenon. According to the Council Iustitia et Pax, the access to social housing is one of the key tools to improve this situation. “The housing should should have a form of living in a flat or an apartment, not in a lodging-house, hostel, asylum house or other non-residential premises. The lodging-houses, as we know them today, are not a solution but a reason of homelesness”, writes Mons. Václav Malý, adding that commercial lodging-houses without possibility of social work, offering an environment without suitable social and hygienic conditions often becomes “an extortionary business with poverty”. Experiences from abroad show clearly that a man who for some reason remains on the street, loses his working habit after about two weeks. After two months of homelesness his resocialisation lasts about ten months. European cities like Vienna have come to a conclusion that finding a social habitation for people in critical situation is seven times cheaper than leaving them on the street and offer them a program of support after they really become homeless. Opinion of public. The attitude of people towards the homeless is often very negative and these moods are even worsened by pejorative expressions of some politicians and journalists. The cases of agression towards the homeless including severe health damages or even murders have been documented. “The attitude of public towards the homeless and the willingness to help them shows that the approach to this issue in traditional European democracies differs from the post-communist countries”, reads the document of the Council. In the Czech republic, most people think that the homeless are fully responsible for their situation, not taking into account that the critical situation resulting in homelesness can be reather easily reached by a combination of circumstances that can happen to anyone. Especially alarming is an increase of number of young homeless people, who face the risk of a long-time unemployment and resignation to their situation and position in the society. “It’s about alienation, loss of the sense of life and one’s own identity”, warns the Council Iustitia et Pax. Need of a complex approach. Since the beginning of the nineties of the 20th century, the homeless have been helped mostly by non-governmental organisations and local municipalities in the Czech republic. The approach of the state authorities is based on “formal solutions” rather than understanding of complexity of a serious social problem falling into the competence of several ministries. Gravity of this issue grows quietly and constantly and it’s not possible to manage it without “complex approach taking into account the growing unemployment rate and the phenomenon of migration”. This approach – if it wants to be succesfull – must include prevention, education at schools, social work with endangered households and support of all opportunities leading to cohesion of families and their living. “It’s necessary to stop taking away the children from their families only because the conditions of housing are not sufficient enough”, reads the document. It’s social housing, run by the municipalities, that should be used as a basic tool of social integration. “It must be available to all those who face a housing crisis”, emphasises Mons. Malý. The Catholic Church supports testing of a model “Housing first” as a form of complex integration of people living in poverty, underlining that the situation of unemployment, often resulting in homelesness, must be solved by all available means of active employment policy, including the development of so-called “social enterpreneurship”. Invitation. The Council Iustitia et Pax appreciates an adoption of the Concept of prevention and solution of homelesness as a “positive step forward”, hoping that it will bring its fruit on a long-term base. “Homelesness represents an extreme form of social exclusion. To ignore it means to threaten a social cohesion of every society”, concludes the document of the Council, inviting all Christians and people of good will to realize it.

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