Civic organization Proti prúdu has been established by three university students of social work on 20.3. 2001 with aim to help homeless people integrate into society, to work on the prevention of homelessness and positively impact public attitudes towards homeless people.
The main and first project from 2001 – publishing street paper Nota bene, gives monthly chance to get a decent income, self-esteem and social contacts up to 350 homeless people in 18 towns in Slovakia. In Bratislava, we provide by 5 social workers individual social counselling, as well as counselling in groups or through streetwork activities. We offer homeless people access to the computer, internet and telephone, correspondence address, we contribute to cover the costs of prescripted medicaments etc. In cooperation with partners, we also provide pro bono lawyer assistance. Since 2001, we have worked with more than 3,500 homeless people in Bratislava.
Thanks to strong vision and financial stability, there are other pilot projects we started and implemented or helped to found in Slovakia there. In 2007-2011 we operated outreach program Streetwork (now it is operated by NGO Vagus), we started Theatre Nota bene with homeless people (now it is operated by NGO Homeless Theatre), in 2005-2007 we have provided to Nota bene vendors worksheltered jobs with accommodation in a complex project Krištof. In 2006 we helped to found low-threshold nightshelter St. Vincent Depaul and we are cofounders of Daily center St. Elizabeth from 2011. From May 2014 we realize project of employement and debt-delevering of homeless people - Luggage porters at main railway station.
We are active in cross-linking organizations working with homeless people, we prepared several proposals for law amendments and managed to change the laws, in 2015 we organized our 7th annual international professional conference on homelessness on employemnet/debts/housing issue and we have publish 3 books based on our experience. From 2014, we iniciate the preparation of National strategy on preventing and solving homelessness, we prepare analysis.
We organize cultural projects to change public perception on homelessness (e.g. Homeless ball.) Our vendors represented Slovakia several times on The Homeless World Cup in football. We believe it is important to give voice to homeless people. We have published 5 books written by our vendors, invented with them the table game on homelessness, in 2014 we published first illustrated children’s fairy tale book on homelessness and our trained vendors go to the discussion in schools to speak on homelessness.
The overall yearly budget of our organization is 460 000 eur.
Our next aim is to run a pilot project of Housing first in Slovakia.
Visit also www.facebook.com/casopisnotabene.
CURRENTLY RUN PROJECTS
Publishing Street paper Nota bene, integration program – the access to income and improvement of living conditions of homeless people
Nota bene is sold by 320 vendors in 17 cities of Slovakia. Vendors earn decent income, dignity and social contacts.
Integration program Nota Bene in Bratislava engages 160 street paper‘s vendors and it consists of:
- Training and working tool – sale of streetpaper Nota bene - daily contact of the social workers with vendors selling Nota bene
- Social Centre: basic and specialized social counselling provided by 5 social workers, protection of rights and legitimate interests, free use of phone, computer and internet, postbox for personal mail, contributions to vendors to cover their costs related to health etc...
- Streetwork and specialized social counselling in the field, outside the office
- Group counselling to vendors to develop their social skills
The streetpaper Nota bene is sold by other 160 vendors in other 16 cities of Slovakia thanks to cooperation with other organizations worknig with homeless people.
The average sold edition during month is 30 516 pcs.
Nota bene luggage porters on Bratislava main railway station - jobs with social and health insurance and debt deleveraging for 10 homeless people
The luggage porters are selected vendors of Nota bene streetpaper, who help people with their bags and suitcases on Bratislava main railway station. They are recognizable by nobly uniforms they wear. The luggage porter job helps twice. It helps passengers with heavy luggage overcome the obstacles (long stairs with no lift and escalators) and Nota bene vendors gain personally enriching employment and chance to repay their debts an help others. The porters are employed by NGO Proti prúdu, which publish Nota bene street paper from 2001 and operates other pilot projects in Slovakia in order to help homeless people and work with public prejudices on homelessness.
Luggage porters is a pilot program of employing and debt delevereging of homeless people - Nota bene streetpaper vendors - and involves intensive social counselling (individual and group) with 10 homeless people. Vendors of Nota bene will get the opportunity to be employed (with contract, health insurance, social insurance etc.) as luggage porters at the train station in Bratislava. It is the job associated with higher demands and higher support from social worker. Its main objectives is to develop work habits, social and communication skills and gaining decent income that will support the integration of vendors also through debt elimination. The project is unique in putting homeless people in an unusual role - not the object of assistance, but on the contrary, they help other people. Porter service will be directed primarily to help elderly and disabled people to transfer luggage from the lobby of the main train station to train at the platform via the stairs under the railway lines and vice versa. Since there are no elevators or escalators, there is positive response from public. Main focus of the counselling: preparing for the job, social and personal development, individual financial planning, housing solution, support for gaining the working habits, developing a financial plan for dealing with debts, and / or personal bankruptcy and maintaining the accommodation etc. Project is carried out with the active cooperation of Slovak railway corporation during the times of intense rail usage by public. The aim is, that positive responses from passengers and support from the Slovak railway corporation / other donors will prolong this service after project funding from EEA grant scheme (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway).
The idea behind it, homeless people need a job and to deal with their debts. At the same time, women, the elderly or infirm and disabled people when travel need help with their luggage at Bratislava’s main train station, because of obstacles (stairs - no lift or escalator) there. Porter job combines both of these needs. Homeless people are usually in a position where they need help. This project reversed the situation. Homeless people in the role of porters are in a position to help others with luggage and suitcases. Within our pilot "debt pay-off program" we duplicate the money, which clients decide to use from their wages for paying off their debts. Our primary goal is to help them to be rid of debt, especially health insurance, as a first step towards normal employment. Secondary goals are to support their working habits and of course, to give them a job and the feeling of being helpful. Thanks to the good job they do; they fight stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions about homeless people. The big step to gain public trust was the idea of history-inspired uniforms of porters. A very successful press conference and nationwide media interest accompanied our first working day 8 December, 2014.
Goals of the project:
- to develop working habits, communication and social skills needed to maintain a porter job
- to encourage clients to repay their debts, especially on health insurance, partially or fully according to individual choices and circumstances of the client
- to develop the potential of self-help in the project, building relations among porters and increasing their own capacity - through work in groups led by social workers
- to motivate clients deal with official matters such as registration with the Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family and finding acceptable solutions to indebtedness
- to improve the perspective of the public's perception of the homelessness issue through positive personal contact of clients with the passengers and by communicating on the issues of employment and debts of homeless people in medias in generally, in the Nota bene street paper, social networks etc…
- to acquire expertise on issues such as employment and deleveraging (pay off debts) of homeless people, that serves as a basis for proposal of legislative changes worked out in cooperation with Pro bono layers group
- to inspire other future projects focusing on similar issues and present the topic at our annual 7th Conference on Homelessness, held in May / June 2015
Working with public opinion - reducing prejudices - advocacy
1. printing special / thematic issues
Nota Bene have been engaging general public to help homeless people form 2001 - through the simple tool - buying the monthly magazine. Nota bene sensitizer public and overcome prejudices against homeless people through personal contact of readers and vendors and through magazine articles. The homeless people are perceived by the public as alcoholics, antisocial people, for whom the homelessness is a lifestyle and was chosen, therefore it is crucial that the public and the competent institutions understand that homelessness is a serious social problem. As the life standards of working poor decrease, the intolerance towards marginalized groups grows – there are more radical ideas to address the problems of homeless people but also Roma.
In last year we published:
- 1 special issue of Nota bene on homelessness published in December 2014
- 1 special issue of Nota bene on Roma published in May 2015
2. public discussions with vendors
Homeless people as lecturers on homelessness are active opinion changers of prejudices in public. In 2012, 7 people passed our intensive training program to develop communication and presentation skills, understand the issues of homelessness, so that theyare prepared for discussions with the public. All trained vendors participate in subsequent discussions.
3. conference on homelessness - 7th conference on Homelessness 2015
For tackling the issue on homelessness it is important to continue the collaboration, discussion and transfer of know-how between organizations and training of competent authorities within the complex system of working with people without Home. From 2007 we organize annual conference on homelessness. Conference as the only one of its kind in Slovakia provides examples of good practice in dealing homelessness in Slovakia and abroad, and provides necessary space for the exchange of experiences and expert discussion, not only at the level of organizations working with homeless people, but also at the level of representatives from ministries and academic field. The conference is 2-3days long and 120 participants participate.
- 2015 Job - the way out of the homelessnes?
- 2014 Ending homelessness / current services reviews / cooperation across different fields
- 2013 Self - development of homeless people
- 2012 Low-tresh services to homeless people and cooperation between state / ministries / NGOs
- 2011 Alcohol problems and possibilities of working with homeless addicts in Slovakia
- 2009 Services to sick homeless people and rough sleepers
- 2007 Homelessness in general