Depaul Ukraine organised a ground-breaking conference looking at solutions to the link between criminal justice and homelessness. We know around 40% of street sleepers in Ukraine have been in prison and the conference brought together various partners to assess the issue.
Depaul International joined our Ukraine colleagues in Odessa for the first national homelessness and prisons conference, ‘Homelessness: An Integrated Approach to Solving Social Problems’. Around 100 local and central government and prisons officials met over two days this week, many for the first time, to share learning and network around issues of homelessness, social housing and prisons. Opening speeches from our Chair, John Darley, and Yuliya Gaydarzhy, a Director General at the Ministry for Social Policy, encouraged effective collaboration at both a local and national level. “We want local and regional actors, NGOs and donors to communicate and make a step towards working together”, said Yuliya Gaydarzhy.
Presentations on the first day focused on best practices for working with homeless people and prisoners – cross-sector cooperation, social housing, passports, and healthcare reform. Our CEO Ian Brady, talked about the UK approach to housing, “There are different types of social housing and it doesn’t always have to be provided by the government. The NGOs can do this in partnership.” The exchanging of ideas was a key theme throughout the conference, and there was a willingness to explore new approaches.
Afternoon panel discussions captured the lively atmosphere and energy of the conference. For many it was an opportunity to meet key figures in the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy and national penitentiary service.
Professor Nick Hardwick, former Chief Inspector of Prisons in the UK, opened the second day with a speech about working to rehabilitate and prepare prisoners on their release to prevent homelessness: “One of the key responsibilities of prison directors is the rehabilitation of prisoners.” Officials from the penitentiary service and Internal Affairs Committee echoed this: “Rehabilitation efforts should start from the moment prisoners start their sentence, not only three months before their release”, noted Valeriy Kalivoshko, Head of the Department of Social-Educational and Psychological Work with Convicts.
Overall, there was a feeling that change is both possible and wanted, if we work together.
Huge congratulations to the Depaul Ukraine team, in particular Director Vladimir Balabanov and PR Manager Yuliia Nesterenko, for organising a very successful and fruitful conference.