Routes out of Poverty and Isolation for Older Homeless People: Possible Models from Poland and the UK

Policies in many EU countries have sought to address the link between worklessness, reliance on state benefits and the attendant poverty that they inevitably bring. However, the focus has tended to be on the acquisition of skills and education amongst younger people. Older ex-homeless people are rarely regarded as contenders in the employment market and it has been argued that resources aimed at improving their employability are unlikely to provide a sufficient return. Routes out of homelessness are frequently identified as requiring shifts in lifestyles and networks. In the UK, for example, there is often a focus on managing addictive behaviours. Success is commonly measured through the achievement of independence, however, isolation can frequently prove to be a problem when former social networks have to be abandoned. Some models indicate that it is possible to be successful in working with older previously homeless people via employment and community reintegration, offering a route out of poverty and dependence whilst alleviating the problem of isolation. This paper looks at two organisations, one in Poland and one in the UK, both of which work with homeless people who are or who have been roofless. It is argued that the language and ideology framing the work of an organisation will have a strong influence on the model of provision and that a holistic approach with community and meaningful activity at its centre may be the way forward for some homeless people