Poland transitioned to a market economy in 1989, a change that while considered successful, created a deeper divide between the haves and have-nots. Economic benefits were unevenly distributed and the social issue of homelessness came to the forefront.
Poland measures poverty with two standards, the ‘social minimum’ and the ‘subsistence minimum’. Social minimum is indicated by a particular threshold needed for a household to lead a decent life which is based off of a ‘basket of goods’ needed to achieve said lifestyle. The subsistence minimum is based off of a more restricted ‘basket of goods’, a basket that holds only the bare necessities for survival.
Poverty rates in Poland are declining, from 18.1 percent of the population living below the poverty threshold in 2005 to 10.6 percent in 2008. Good news as it shows that the social measures the government has taken are proving effective but not quite great news because while the situation is improving for many Polish citizens, it is becoming worse for the homeless or close to homeless population.
The majority of the 10.6 percent of the population living below the poverty threshold are classified as living on a subsistence minimum, they are the people threatened by homelessness. They struggle to meet basic needs and, as result, are socially marginalized and excluded. Poland has not directed any strategies to combat homelessness, current programs in place are more intervention focused (shelters) than with a prevention (directed to those threatened by homelessness) and re-integration (directed at the homeless) focus.
The typical homeless person in Poland is male, over the age of 50 and has been homeless for at least seven years. Despite the efforts of social workers, a very small number of homeless manage to reach self-sufficiency.