Homeless people do not live long – 10, sometimes 15 years on average since leaving their homes. There are not many institutions which handle the problem of overcoming homelessness: activation of homeless elderly. Centre in Poznań admits only men who turned 50. In Poland the homeless receive care mainly from church organizations.
Saint Brother Albert shelter in Poznań is a place for the homeless, deprived of livelihood men, modelled after shelters established by Saint Brother Albert, the founder of the Congregation of Brothers and Sisters Serving the Poor (Albertine Brothers and Sisters).
About 30 percent of the costs of shelter maintenance are covered by the city, the remaining part by Society membership fees and donations. Moreover, the homeless receive help from bakeries, local shops and private persons (clothes, shoes). The shelter may admit 48 people. Most often these are sober alcoholics without families, sometimes former prisoners.
In the shelter they get all the help they need: every admitted homeless person may wash himself, receives clothes, food as well as legal, medical and spiritual support. Most often these people are sick, scared and frequently without any documents. Shelter’s employees assist them with handling administrative matters, obtaining the right to medical care or pension and treatment for their bodies destroyed by years of homelessness and alcoholism.
Hope, however, is not so easy to raise there. Strict order and silence maintain in the shelter.
Men prepare all the meals, do the laundry and clean the rooms by themselves. Few available pastimes include watching TV, listening to radio, conversations, and cigarettes.
The main aim of shelters is full social readaptation of the homeless. Extract from the Regulations: Stay in Saint Brother Albert Shelter for the Homeless should help every resident to find his own place in society and gain full independence. For that reason, there is no better place to become convinced that homelessness does not only refer to financial situation than a shelter. It is not only lack of home but primarily decreased ability to lead an unassisted life and adapt to requirements of the busy world and society. It is doubt, hopelessness and withdrawal. Resignation.
There does not exist one reason for homelessness. Rarely only one cause explains the story. The homeless are people in a crisis who found themselves among the dregs of society and they are not able to deal with life. This state resembles trauma – it causes not only material but also psychological damage. Shelter’s regulations, duties in the kitchen, necessity to maintain order organize life, rendering it possible to bear. Some of the homeless, earlier without strength to fight, in the shelter recover from diseases, learn to plan their expenditures, keep payment deadlines. By organizing closed, familiar and fenced in area they learn to organize the world.
In theory, the shelter is a centre of temporary residence. Extract from the Regulations: Residents may stay in the shelter 3 months at the longest. In special cases the board (…) may prolong the residence in the shelter by next 3 months…
Not always, however, the offered help ends in success. For a certain number of men time in the shelter will be only a break for finding oneself, for others a stop on their way to social welfare homes or hospitals. Only few will actually manage to overcome homelessness.
Every resident gave oneself a chance, a time for a decision. Some of them will soon decide that they are not able to survive. For them the shelter will be home.