Why do they stay? Exploring the reasons why homeless Polish migrant workers remain in a state of prolonged destitution in post-Brexit Britain

PhD student Martyna Piliszewska
Martyna Piliszewska
PhD student
Housing and real estate, Urban inequalities
Martyna's research aims to explore why homeless Polish migrant workers remain in a state of prolonged destitution in Brexit Britain.

I am a qualified social worker and criminologist who have had the privilege of living, studying and working in Poland, Britain, Uganda and the United States of America.


  • Diploma in Social Work (with first-class honours). Łódź Social Work Academy, Poland.
  • BSc Criminology (with first-class honours), The University of Salford, Manchester (student exchange to Wayne State University, Detroit, US)
  • Ma Social Work, The University of Salford, Manchester
  • Ma in Social Research (with distinction), The University of Sheffield

Before moving to England, I was awarded a social work degree from Social Work Academy in Łódź, in my native country, Poland, and I was practicing in the Family Support Unit of the Social Services Department in Łódź. After moving to Manchester, I pursued a criminology degree at the University of Salford. I was also a criminal justice exchange student at Wayne State University, in Detroit. Upon my return to Salford University, I completed masters in social work degree. My elective social work placement in Youth and Women Empowerment Foundation, Fort Portal, Uganda involved community and prison work. Before starting my PhD research, I graduated with masters in social research from Sheffield Methods Institute at the University of Sheffield.

Professional experience:

I have professional experience of working for various homelessness charities in Manchester, providing support to socially excluded adults with complex needs. I worked extensively with homeless Central Eastern European community, supporting individuals who suffered from dual diagnosis and who were affected by human trafficking or modern slavery and had no recourse to public funds. Following my move to Manchester City Council, I was working at homelessness prevention scheme as a move on worker, and providing intensive support and practical housing solutions to the citizens on the verge of homelessness. The project has won Excellence Award 2018 in ‘Our Ways of Working’ category. Before I moved to Sheffield to begin my PhD journey, I was practicing as adults social worker within Multiagency Adults Safeguarding Hub in Manchester.

About my research:

My work is situated within the context of homelessness crisis in Britain, the post-Referendum hostile environment policy, and the precarious position of homeless Central Eastern European migrant workers in the post-Brexit Britain.

My research aims to explore the reasons determining why homeless Polish migrant workers remain in a state of prolonged destitution in Brexit Britain.

Through application of ethnographic life stories approach, I study the post-Brexit experiences of this marginalised population: their understanding of Brexit and their future plans and aspirations. Therefore my scientific investigation focuses on a deeper, multidimensional conceptualisation of complex and intersectional problems of this hidden community and adds to the knowledge on the relationship between human agency, individual decision-making, migration and the process of homelessness.

I want to contribute to shaping post-Brexit practical solutions to assisting homeless Polish and other Central Eastern European population through preventative and exit strategies. Creating an alternative solution to administrative removals of rough sleepers is particularly important, as those deported migrant workers encounter lack of recourse to public funds and destitution in their native countries. More specifically, the perceptual shift in empirically investigating and critically appraising the significance of individuals’ agency within the process of homelessness could be a step forward towards uncovering cognitive, behavioral and structural mechanisms supporting homelessness prevention and exits.