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Our lead partners in Zagreb are Hrvatska mreža za beskućnike (Croatian Network for the Homeless)

Joined the campaign: November 2021

Who’s involved? The campaign is led by the national NGO Hrvatska mreža za beskućnike (Croatian Network for the Homeless). The member NGOs working with the Network to address street homelessness in Zagreb are:

What has happened so far? Croatia is a nation of homeowners, with a very small social rented sector in the major cities. There is no national requirement for the provision of general social housing.

The county’s Social Welfare Act defines homelessness as ‘no place of residence, lives in public, can’t meet housing needs’. Using the law’s definition gives a figure of 2,000 homeless people nationally. Using ETHOS definitions 10,000 people would be deemed homeless. One-half of the legally defined homeless are in the city of Zagreb (700-1,000).

Croatia’s Social Welfare Act requires large cities to provide food and shelter for people who are street homeless, but many do not. For example, in the eastern region of Slavonia, there is a shelter only in Osijek and not in every big city as the law requires.

The Croatian Network for the Homeless is a membership-based NGO, which gathers and connects legal entitlement and people to improve care for those who are homeless, and advocate for people’s rights.

In Zagreb the Network runs the Center for Assistance and Support to the Homeless and Persons at Risk of Homelessness. This provides care and support, including preventative and adaptive services. Individuals experiencing homelessness can get help accessing their rights to the social welfare system; psychological and employment support; and local shelters. There are two shelters in Zagreb run by Network members: City Red Cross Society Zagreb – Homeless Shelter and the Caritas Homeless Shelter. The total capacity of these shelters is only for 180 individuals – insufficient to accommodate all who need it in Zagreb.

There is little or no help to move people into secure housing; very little social housing; little or no funding for services or housing available to offer Housing First. Due to the pandemic, the number of homeless people has increased, with many former homeless people and people at risk of homelessness losing their jobs.

One housing community for the homeless – a 3-year project – in Zagreb is for young people who are homeless. They can stay for six months, get appropriate support, and the rent and food are paid for. The only obligation on the individual is to find employment, which helps them to be able to rent somewhere else after.

The Network and its members have created much greater awareness amongst the public and decision makers on the issue of homelessness and homeless people, changes in regulations, and developing and financing new services for people who experience homelessness.

In addition, the Network and its members received European-level recognition and praise for their vital, life-saving work in Zagreb in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s next?

There is a significant need to develop local and national plans to tackle homelessness, with political backing and resources available for effective implementation on a cross-sector basis.

The Network is currently implementing a project entitled ‘New Perspective for Homelessness’. It will explore seven key themes in the field of homelessness:

  1. social services
  2. employment
  3. homelessness prevention
  4. legal status
  5. financing homeless care
  6. housing, and
  7. health and mental health

The project will gather data on these key areas, with a view to developing evidence-based policy guidelines that will increase social inclusion of homeless people in the Republic of Croatia.

With a total project value: HRK 3,592,999.27, this project is co-financed by the European Union though the European Social Fund.

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