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Tomasz Sadowski is pioneering a new approach for dealing with Poland’s most chronic homeless cases by creating self-sufficient rural communities.
Economic reform has displaced many individuals and led to rapid growth in homelessness, especially in urban areas of Poland. Many alcoholics, prostitutes, former prison inmates and mentally ill and elderly people who have no family support are among those without permanent shelter. The current care system cannot deal with the problem through traditional methods. Many of the homeless need psychiatric or other medical care that overburdened social work professionals are not properly trained to provide, even if they could find the resources. A severe lack of space in shelters and halfway houses contributes to the chronic quality that is labeled “unreformable” among Poland’s homeless population.
Barka first adopted a franchise model in 1989 – 2008 within Poland with establishing 20 associations and 20 social cooperatives which have been assembled in a network. Nowadays Barka has been working in more than 40 sub–regions of Poland on a franchising basis. In each and every sub–region Barka creates social integration centres and cooperatives. Barka started to develop the franchising model outside of Poland in 1995 when starting a new Barka Associations in France, the Netherlands, England and Ireland,
but within a very spcific ”business area”: helping excluded and
vunerable people back to a decent life and in many cases a social accepted life.
Tomasz is settling groups of homeless people on previously abandoned farms in rural Poland. He is focusing on what the authorities and social workers consider the most difficult cases, those often labeled “hopeless” and “unreformable.” Once at the farm, the residents are immersed in an atmosphere of love, respect and hope. They are provided with training and skills which they use to manage the farm. Typically the problem has been addressed through short–term urban shelters, which rely on government and private funds for support. Tomasz’s rural cooperatives are striving to be self–sufficient units. The money that the community residents earn from the profits of the farm is spent and invested in the villages where they live.
The Foundations aim is to create support systems for integration of socially marginalized groups, which consists of programs covering around 5 000 people per year (this number is constantly growing). The main purpose of the Barka Foundation development program is to create a pro–active social system in Poland. But the demand for their knowledge and business models had increesed in the last years and now Barka is expanding in Europe, America and Africa (Burkina Faso, Kenia, Zimbawe and Uganda).
Tomasz was born in 1943 to parents who were involved in social activism. He studied sports medicine and completed an M.A. in psychology. His numerous projects included a rehabilitation program for children with polio and reform camps for juvenile delinquents. He also worked as a prison psychological consultant. Tomasz was the founder and director of an innovative rehabilitation center for ex–psychiatric patients that proved to be too unorthodox for government mental health services. Eventually he transformed it into the Barka organization