Since 2014, we have been involved in creating a model system of supportive housing for young adults leaving foster care. In 2016, we completed a pilot project called “Trampoline,” which involved development of 7 supportive apartments in an unused attic space of an apartment block in Warsaw. They now serve young adults leaving the Orionine Fathers’ Center for Juvenile Social Reintegration in Warsaw-Anin.
What is supportive housing ?
Due to their difficult life experiences, young adults from foster care require a comprehensive support before their social reintegration is completed and they become fully autonomous. The last stage of them becoming autonomous should consist of living in supportive housing where:
– they do not live in shared rooms any more (like in foster care centers) but they occupy small independent apartments for which they are fully responsible, for example they need to clean them by themselves;
– they need to pay for their apartments but those costs are not too burdensome: the residents usually cover only the costs of utilities and administrative charges;
– they are not left completely alone because they are supported by tutors who visit them on a regular basis or live next door.
The stay in supportive housing is temporary and usually lasts maximum 2 years. The length of the stay depends on the individual situation of a resident: if the resident continues education then more time is needed before they achieve autonomy and become ready to move out of supportive housing.
Why is supportive housing needed?
In the current system of social welfare assistance, there is a gap between the moment when young people have to leave foster care at the age of 18 and the moment when they get allocated a municipal apartment or start earning enough to afford an apartment from the commercial market. They sometimes have to wait several years until they can move into a municipal apartment and the financial support from the state is not sufficient for renting even the cheapest apartment from the commercial market (they get a stipend only if they continue education but it is very small, amounting to around 500 PLN = 150 EUR a month). As a result, foster alumni struggle to find housing and it often happens that they move from foster care to homeless shelters.
The scale of the problem is significant as 27 thousand young people currently live in children’s homes and foster care centers in Poland. If they are not helped to find affordable housing and – more importantly – if they are not provided with a more comprehensive support (so they can complete their education or therapy), there is a risk that about 90% of them will return to dysfunctional environments.
“Trampoline” pilot project
In the years 2014-2016, we realized the “Trampoline” pilot project in cooperation with the Orionine Fathers’ Center for Juvenile Social Reintegration in Warsaw-Anin. With the help of business partners, we bought an unused attic space of an apartment block in the Warsaw district of Praga-Północ. We developed a complex of 7 studio apartments which are rented on a rotating basis to young adults who leave the Orionine Fathers’ Center. They can stay in supportive housing for a maximum period of 2 years. The apartments are affordable but not free as the residents need to cover the monthly costs of utilities and administrative charges.
The residents are not left alone on their way towards autonomy as they are supported by a tutor from the the Orionine Fathers’ Center who lives next door.
The renovation works at the attic were realized with the support of future residents as well as local and international volunteers, including corporate volunteers and participants of Global Village, Habitat’s international volunteering program.
The apartments are rented to young adults from the Orionine Fathers’ Center for Juvenile Social Reintegration in Warsaw-Anin who successfully completed the first stage of the social reintegration program called “Trampoline I.” The program leads residents of the Orionine Fathers’ Center through the first stage of reintegration: it involves studying in high schools in Warsaw, attending vocational training and therapy in accordance with their individual needs.
Once the first stage of social reintegration is completed, the young adults can move from the Center to the supportive housing, where the second stage takes place. The supportive housing residents take up their first jobs, continue vocational training or start college. They live outside of the Center but they still benefit from the support of the Center’s employees as needed (especially the tutor who lives next door).
Main business partners
Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation: financial and technical support, donating building and insulation materials, technical advisory, covering the costs of adapting the attic
H. Stepic CEE Charity (Raiffeisen Bank): funding needed to purchase the attic and to perform formal and legal procedures related to adapting the attic into a habitable area
FAAB Architektura Adam Białobrzeski/Adam Figurski: pro bono architectural and building permit design
Whirlpool: financial support, donation of home appliances for furnishing the apartments
Dow Chemical Company: partial financing of administrative costs related to implementing the project
Andrzej Lulka Law Office: pro bono legal support
Wienerberger: building materials such as bricks
In order to prepare the residents of the Orionine Fathers’ Center in Warsaw-Anin for a successful transition to the supportive apartments, we developed a series of workshops focused on money management and techniques for reducing the costs of utilities through the efficient use of water and energy. The workshops were organized in partnership with the Microfinance Center within a parallel project „My home – my responsibility” – financial education and saving energy at home(financed with the EEA funds through the „Citizens for Democracy” program).
Project progress in photos
1. The attic before the commencement of the adaptation works.
2. The adaptation works at the attic with the support of international and corporate volunteers, including the participants of the Global Village program.
3. Completed supportive apartments.
Details of the project
June 2014 – August 2016
Habitat for Humanity Poland & Orionine Fathers’ Center for Juvenile Social Reintegration
Habitat for Humanity Poland
Orionine Fathers’ Center for Juvenile Social Reintegration
Father Michał Szwemin