German streetworking conference held

A two-day conference on streetwork took place in Krakow’s magistrate building last week. The conference, entitled “Street social work among the homeless and expulsion-threatened and unadjusted youth experience exchange, development directions,” was organized by the City Center for Social Help (MOPS).

Krakow streetworkers presented the results of a project – “Streetwork: effective contact with clients” – that has been implemented since 2006 and ends on March 31. In addition, Polish streetworkers from Warsaw, Katowice and Gdynia and German workers from Frankfurt shared their experiences in lectures and discussion.

“It’s been a huge effort to prepare everything, but it was definitely worth it,” said Lukasz Chobot, the spokesman for MOPS. “Social help in the form of streetwork is relatively new in Poland and we want to exchange ideas. Having one goal, we have different methods of our work and we can benefit from one another. Besides, talking to other streetworkers helps to relieve possible discouragement and gives support and new energy. We need it, as we have still much to do.”

Two panels were dedicated to different streetwork recipients: teenagers and the homeless. The topics included, among others, issues of streetworking as a job for the brave, working with teenagers endangered by social expulsion in a big city, streetwork carried out among prostitutes, and the character of streetwork among the homeless.

Last summer in the Krakow Post, we wrote about streetworking in Krakow, and the character and recipients of this form of social service. The streetworkers visit the huge housing complexes, which are similar to ghettoes, as well as the backstreets of the old town in search for people who are not accepted by the society or don’t accept its rules themselves, thus creating psychological or material problems. At first the streetworkers slowly bond by eye contact and casual chats and then, having been accepted, they talk to people to find out their needs and to offer help. This kind of job is extremely difficult and uphill, but the streetworkers are professionals with unusual personality and people skills.

“These young people whom we work with have sometimes a hunger for success, even that which is negative,” Chobot said..” Most often they live within the limits of their own neighborhood and don’t know Krakow at all. Our job is to overcome their xenophobic approach, and prove to them that they, too, can achieve something.”

“Without the enormous help of the Municipal Guards, community centers and Krakow sports clubs, such as Cracovia, we wouldn’t have achieved half of this,” Chobot concluded. And now MOPS’ streetworkers are planning a new project, one that will be launched immediately after the present project ends.

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