This issue on topic Health and Social Care for Imprisoned, Orphans and Homeless consists of ten articles I believe will be beneficial for researchers, practitioners and the general public, too. Focusing on when we think about the individual fate of homeless, people may feel remorse and perhaps even disgust and repulsion. Societal prejudices associated with the problem of homeless- ness sometimes induce atmospheres of fear; the “expert opinion” that it is their own fault; if they wanted, they would work; after all, “Nobody gave me anything for free either!”. Sadly, in my opinion, some Social Services or their providers, set the homeless in the social system as professional consumers of Social Services. In recent decades, we see many so-called social tourists who migrate from one social center to another, from city to city, from one Social Worker to another and manage to live without any effort to snip the umbilical cord from (within their circumstances) generous Social Services. In some cases, we even met some extremes, when they refused an apartment with minimal rent which would terminate their social tourism. While such cases are a minority, I believe they are products of a non-systematic social policy of the state which persuades its citizens about a generous welfare state which will resolve all their problems. We must not incline to any of these extremes. Neither sorrow associated with maternity, nor leaving a person alone is a correct approach to homeless people. It is necessary to understand that none of the homeless have planned their future this way. Many of them had, for a certain period of life, a functioning marriage and family, employment, career - some had been University Teachers, Priests, Engineers, Medical Doctors, Doctors of various Sciences; but, of course, mostly, people without completed basic education, or graduates of special schools. Currently, there is a new specific group forming, consisting of migrants and refugees, who are often qualified but the language barrier condemns them to low levels of the society ladder. Social Service Professionals do not like to use the term “homeless” because it is stigmatizing and humiliating during contact with clients. A lesser and more appropriate phrase is “people without a home”. The general public uses and understands the word “homeless” mostly as something pejorative: “Only filthy beggars from the street and wanderers (vagabonds) are often considered as homeless. People usually try to avoid them, because meeting them raises feelings of repulsiveness” (Tvrdoň, Kasanova, 2004). Homeless people perceive us through the lens of their reality experiences, and they often do not believe we can understand their suffering them when we have not have such experiences. The three main functions of social assistance to homeless people is providing housing, problem solving (including counseling) and catering. In Slovakia, these are carried out mainly through construction of refuges and food distribution. However, besides accommodations and social counseling to the homeless, these refuges (the simplest form of housing by Social Services for homeless people) seldom offer a real opportunity to change their lives through any instructive rehabilitation programs. The aims are mainly keeping clients alive; essentially providing necessary housing, food, and clothing. If there should be real integration of homeless people into society, Social Work should not just stay at that level. The homeless are among the most at risk groups for Social Workers. They are multiply marginalized; discriminated in housing, financial assistance, in the labor market, and in supporting relationships. Thanks to seemingly insurmountable problems endangering their health, welfare and life, the homeless require capable and competent supportive crisis intervention. The mechanism of their employment and success in finding and maintaining work habits on a purely commercial principle leads to serious doubts about any more permanent sense of social measures in the form of social enterprises; activation works; various packages of Social Services. In addition to the enormous financial costs and the need for resulting efficiency, the risk of abuse of finances by intermediaries linked with the problem of fading EU funds, they ultimately deprive homeless people of their dignity and paradoxically create so called “hungry valleys”. In the medium and long term perspective, they may even lock them in the poverty trap; dependence on the welfare state (there is a reason why it is said, that that large-scale social network is more like rocking a “tranquilizing” network and not the engine of social change and sustainable prosperity). I feel that the key solution to the poverty issue of homeless people affected by poverty (especially generational) is more in the hands of good and successful entrepreneurs, than in the legalities of the Social Services Act and the Employment Services Act.
prof. Dr. Michael Olah, Ph.D.
Social Worker, Statutory Representative of the Resocialization Community of Anton Srholec - RESOTY, University Teacher, Professor of Social Work St. Elizabeth University of Health and Social Work in Bratislava
Sr. Dr. Rita Carberry
The Presentation Sisters, Ireland