Ivan is a very ordinary young man we can meet on the streets; he loves music, has a beautiful girlfriend, follows sports and is a favourite in society. Its golden-yellow tufts protrude mischievously from under the cap. Torn jeans and a playful but careless posture suggest his age: Ivan is only 21 years old. Those are the happiest years, aren’t they? However, only a few passers-by notice the concern of his almost childish face, the sad look of clear blue eyes, which unfortunately saw too much negative in that short age. Due to a combination of unfortunate life circumstances – due to completely disrupted family relationships – Ivan became homeless, a tramp and has no professional title. He never finished high school, he gave up ahead of time.

By the time he arrived at Haven House, the Depaul Croatia day centre, he had been sleeping for more than a month under an outdoor staircase. In such a small space that when he brought the mattress to lie on it in the evening, only the mattress and nothing else fit into it. And in a way that, if there was a door by any chance – he would not be able to close it. So he only had some plank that only half protected him from the cold. And people.

He was brought to Haven House in September, by a young man, only an acquaintance of his, but sensitive to human abandonment and willing to help, and he knew the work of Depaul Croatia and occasionally volunteered there. John persevered and slowly integrated into the regularity of Haven House. Through our efforts, he soon achieved some social rights.

In November, the opportunity opened for him to participate in Depaul Croatia’s Homeless Garden (H-Garden), a project that seeks to integrate members of marginalised groups back into society through occupational therapy in the garden.

Ivan, by his very devoted activities in Haven House, proved to be a great candidate for participation in H-Garden being always helpful to everyone and at hand. Katarina, the head of H-Garden, remembers those first meetings with him: “My first independent trip to the garden was with him. We had great adventures in the garden; from a failed attempt to lift an elevated billet from an old closet that looked so bizarre on that spacious land at the time, to fleeing from a neighbour’s dog, an unadapted mongrel who pulled us by the legs to the exit. Soon a few more people joined us in the garden, and together we began to create what we ourselves did not know we had the strength for; today already a representative, arranged piece of space, but then … The months of November and December that followed brought plenty of rain and just as much cold, but we still somehow managed to bring it to an end. (In those winter months, it is important to mention, Ivan was received as a guest, by friends of Depaul Croatia!) Ivan stood out in the garden with his commitment and diligence and soon (among others) enrolled and successfully completed an education that he helped in his professional orientation and the discovery of hidden personal skills, which we also organised for our people for that purpose. In the garden, with the help of a hard-working volunteer (helping him in concreting or concreting for the first time), he somehow found himself in what later proved to be a good decision – the job of a builder. ”

The burning problem is certainly that there is work – and there is not too much. The hopelessness of young people is often reflected in this. It’s hard to motivate yourself, and finding strong enough reasons to hope when the cars go totally downhill is even harder. Also, Rijeka is a small area, and the environment is prone to condemnation and prejudice. Fortunately, Ivan had the support of the environment, his friends and girlfriend, and ultimately us, the employees of Depaul Croatia. We looked for a job with him. He called, tried, was often denied. In the end, he accidentally found it through an ad! That job is – according to his statements today – for him a dream job. He was soon accepted permanently from the probationary period and with his first salary he managed (despite the impossible rules of renting and paying two rents in advance) to rent an apartment for himself and his girlfriend and get off the street.

Today, he is happy and busy, doing a job he loves. His work environment is pleasant, he lives in an apartment of his choice. He is satisfied. He is warm and comfortable. He only comes to us sometimes, but that’s better, let him step on the full depth of life and live a youth worthy of life, a life he has only actually stepped into.

Depaul Croatia’s vision is a future in which everyone has a home. We do that with early intervention and so preventing long-term homelessness.