Fellow Since 1995
Wspólnota "Chleb Życia"
This profile was prepared when Malgorzata Chmielewska was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Malgorzata Chmielewska has approached the problem of homelessness in Poland by concentrating on women, whom she sees as being the most vulnerable because they have fewer resources available to them than do homeless men. She also differentiates among different types of homelessness and has developed a more comprehensive set of services than has existed previously in Poland. Her work focuses separately on the varying needs of women who have been battered, women with young children and women with older children and entire families. Her concept of care seeks to avoid making those who need help dependent on the helper. The most complex part of her program is a fourth house where the inhabitants create a self-supporting community. This group includes not only women but also men and families as well. Sister Malgorzata, as she is widely known, has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to people on the margins and her ultimate goal is to bring them back into society, with a home, work and hope. Her program works to build a community base both among its homeless clients, who develop self-sufficiency as a group and within the larger community. Through the media and a coalition of organizations that work with homeless people, she presses for public awareness and new policies; her effectiveness is drawing attention from a broad Polish audience and from groups working on the problem in other countries.