Continuing our series of blog posts from De Paul International, we asked them to tell us about their work in Croatia.
For the past few years, Marija has been coming to the day centre to pick up lunch for herself and her partner – never really making use of any other available services. Both of them were homeless, staying in an abandoned, derelict warehouse in the centre of the city. Marija’s partner had a criminal record and was often abusive towards her – effectively treating her like a slave.
The only way to get away from him was by drinking and acting violently herself from time to time; which led to her being admitted to hospital for short periods.
But whenever she was discharged, it would all start again.
All of this made it extremely difficult to talk to her – with all the pain she had experienced, Marija had no reason to trust us. But the team refused to give up on her and eventually found a way to get through to Marija: by offering her clean clothes and hot showers.
Then, one day, her partner was sent to prison for an extended sentence – leaving Marija alone and caring for his two dogs. After about a month, Marija finally came to us and asked for help to change her life. She wanted to escape her abusive relationship; she was committed to living independently, finding a job and starting a new life.
And we were ready to help.
The team secured hospital treatment for Marija as her health had deteriorated over the years due to intermittent alcohol abuse. Whilst she was away, we looked after the dogs and stayed in contact with her – supporting her throughout recovery.
But the real challenge was to come after she was discharged: finding a safe home. There are no systems in place that allow us to help her move into independent accommodation and start a new life away from violence. The social care system would only provide Marija with a room in the ‘barracks’ –social housing units that are only marginally better than a derelict building. Staying there would place a vulnerable woman like Marija at risk of further abuse and would not protect her from her violent ex-partner.
The only safe option for Marija was a women’s refuge.
And after countless obstacles, our persistence eventually paid off. We managed to secure a new home for Marija in a refuge; a place that enables her to build a new life and, most importantly, a place where she is safe.
For more information about the work of DPI go to https://int.depaulcharity.org/home