Welcome Home, the integrational-housing program, was launched in 2017. It is Ocalenie Foundation’s response to the fundamental problem with integrating refugees into Polish society: the threat of homelessness and poverty, not being able to speak Polish and mental health issues (including trauma).
The main goal of this program is to help refugee families get back on their feet and gain financial independence so that they no longer need assistance.
The program Welcome Home encompasses 12 families – 66 people all together, of that 43 children. Another 7 families have applied for the program. They are supported according to the financial means of the program. You can find out more about the families and their needs at www.witajwdomu.org.pl.
(updated in January, 2020)
Housing Problems Refugees Encounter
Over the last 25 years, over 125,000 people escaping wars and persecution have made their way to Poland. Only 3% have made Poland their permanent home – slightly more than 3,500 people. There are many contributing factors, but the main reason that refugees decide to leave Poland is the threat of becoming homeless.
Individual National Integration programs for refugees last only one year and are not very effective, as shown by a study carried out by the Supreme Audit Office: Social services for refugees – information about the results of the study.
Over 25% of the refugees in Poland are at risk of becoming homeless, and the barrier to finding housing lies not only in the rental price, but also in the prejudice of the landlords and discrimination. Refugees are often forced to rent run-down apartments, without hot water or heating, and at inflated prices.
Seven years ago, my husband, my three children and I had to leave our native Dagestan. Had we stayed there, our husband would most likely not be with us today. Today we are refugees in Poland and it is not easy for us. I have problems with walking, I have undergone several corrective surgeries and I am waiting for the next one. The responsibility of supporting our household has fallen entirely on my husband’s shoulders.
No one in Warsaw wanted to rent us an apartment. That is why we had to settle in the outskirts of the city, in a damp annex without heating. There was no bathroom in the building, and it was up to my husband to build one. We lacked hot water and so I had to heat water on the stove so that the children could bathe. I couldn’t keep food on the shelves because everything molded due to the dampness. I was afraid that my children would start to get sick from the conditions. I was very afraid of the next winter.
Ayna from Dagestan
The most recent surveys conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs, Association for Legal Intervention and Ocalenie Foundation, among others, have shown that the following housing problems experienced by refugees need to be addressed:
- Living in poor conditions, i.e. unheated, damp, moldy apartments needing basic renovations,
- The negative impact living conditions have on health, family life and integration into society,
- Overcrowded housing,
- Renting homes without a lease agreement,
- Difficulties in finding housing, resulting from discrimination,
- Raising rent and bill payments without valid reasons as well as being taken advantage of in other ways by landlords and property managers (including being thrown out illegally)
- Not being able to cover living costs, such as heating, leading becoming in debt,
- Lack of basic stability in life – living in constant uncertainty and a feeling of imminent homelessness,
- Needing to move house often,
- The especially difficult situation for families with many children and single parent families
A safe and stable roof over your head is the foundation for building a life in a new country. Without this, successful social integration, overcoming trauma and becoming independent is impossible.
Welcome Home – an answer to the problems
The Welcome Home Program combines the following forms of free help:
- Housing support in the form of a social rental agency,
- Integration support by means of a multicultural mentor (refugees or immigrants that have integrated well into Polish society who are able to provide professional help to other immigrants), including help in dealing with day to day issues and with government office visits,
- Medical specialists, including psychologists, short and long term talk therapy, legal aid,
- Polish language courses,
- Job readiness training, including career counseling and support with employer relationships,
- Social and economic education (including planning a budget)
Housing support is provided by Ocalenie Foundation renting homes on the private market as well as through government agencies and then subletting these homes to refugee families. The Foundation adjusts the rent to the financial capabilities of each family. Rental agreements are signed for a term of three years with a graduated rental lease up to the market price over time.
Thanks to the comprehensive aid, families taking part in this program are assured stable conditions allowing for gradual independence.
Thanks to help from the Ocalenie Foundation team, we have recently been able to move into a normal home. At last, each of my children have their own bed. They also have a desk to do their homework on for the first time in their lives. Now that we have a safe and warm home we can focus on building a new life in Poland.
Ayna from Dagestan
How you can support the Welcome Home Program
Would you like to support the program financially? You can do that:
- with a one-time donation to the program
- with a recurring monthly gift to the program, of the amount of your choosing
- by helping specific families in the program featured on our website, www.witajwdomu.org.pl
- by organizing a donation drive at your school, work or during an event. Let us advise you how to make your drive successful! Write to us at [email protected]
Do you want to donate furniture or home appliances?
We ask appliance or furniture producers and retailers wanting to help the program to contact us at: [email protected]