‘Not enough space for all the homeless, people come but we have to reject them’

Homeless Day was celebrated in Kazan opening new overnight accommodation

Homeless Day was celebrated at the main relief point in Kazan on 30 March. The solemn opening of new facilities for people who turned out to have no roof was dedicated to the day. A public campaign aimed to draw attention to problems of the homeless is annually carried out in Russia on this day. Though their number decreased, according to the census (11,285 people in 2021), in reality more people need help, supervisors of the project Human Shelter share their observations. They plan to double the number of places for overnight accommodation soon. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

“We think it is necessary to expand the areas to accommodate more homeless people”

The Human Shelter charity project kicked off six years ago. At that moment, there opened one mobile point where 50 hot meal portions were handed out twice a week. Today the shelter includes six meal points in Kazan where more than a thousand needy people are provided with hot lunch.

The areas for overnight accommodation for the homeless at the main point of Human Shelter on Burkhan Shakhidi Street are very worn out. The renovation of the relief centre dragged in tough economic conditions, however, a milestone was scheduled in the organisation by the important date. Two new overnight accommodation sites for the homeless will solemnly open in Kazan on Homeless Day on 30 March.

It was possible to do the project thanks to the support of non-indifferent people. Six people can live in each area, that’s to say, 12 people are provided with temporary accommodation.

According to the charity project’s author Azat Gaynutdinov, another seven areas that are in a bad state now — rotten floor, leaking roof, accumulated condensate — will have to renovated.

“Now the Human Shelter has 46 seats for overnight accommodation. We think it is necessary to expand the areas to provide 70 and maybe even 80 homeless people with the temporary roof because there isn’t enough space for all the needy in winter, people come but we have to reject. The accommodation units are full in winter time. The old pavilions for the homeless were installed in 2018. Unfortunately, their quality turned out to be poor. We started renovation now,” said Gaynutdinov.

New units meet modern requirements: they have ventilation, heated floor, germicidal lamps, separate changing rooms, good ceiling and floor. Also, they have bunk beds, TV and fridges. The areas are big and light. It is planned to replace all old rooms and renovate the canteen later. Now the tables the needy use to us — the elderly, disabled people, large families — are outdoors, though they are separated by a wall and have a roof.

“People think that the Human Shelter works only for the homeless, but this is absolutely wrong. 90% of the needy who come here to get hot meals are pensioners, old ladies and gentlemen who have very small pensions. How can one survive with 10-12,000 a month? They admit that they were first ashamed of coming here and now they got used to it, they say they don’t even cook at home. There is enough food here, then they eke out drinking only tea,” the project’s supervisor explained.

“The goal is to finish the works by next winter”

Members of the federation of the Russian Self-Build Federation who came to the main relief site on excursion are going to participate in building new units and the canteen area.

“We came together with our colleagues, owners of construction companies to get acquainted with this facility. We knew that the overnight accommodation areas became unfit. Now the situation is getting worse because snow is melting and there is moisture indoors. The winter is over, but it will come again, it is necessary to finish all works on the construction of new units before next winter,” Vice President of the federation Ilyas Gimadov said.

Ilnaz Abdullin, owner of a construction company, admitted that he had repeatedly heard about the Human Shelter and helped it but saw volunteers’ work and how the needy received help first-hand for the first time:

“In such places you start to understand the value of life and that it can be unpredictable. Unfortunately, this can happen to anybody. Whatever happens in life. It is considered that the needy need the rich but in fact the rich need the needy to have a chance to help them. Here we have seen first-hand how the homeless and needy live and certainly decided to help.”

Members of the association want to build new units for the homeless and put the canteen in order with joint efforts.

“Besides the units we would like to rebuild the area where people eat. Now the table is on a semi-open area. I was here in winter, it was very cold. People have to eat in such conditions. This is why we decided to change the canteen — to insulate and put it in order. We plan to do this by next winter too,” Gimadov said.

Apart from hot meals and accommodation, the needy are offered to use sauna and laundry, hairdresser’s services for free. The centre has a service providing legal and social consultations, there is social patrol. Assistance with employment is another area of relief — so that healthy people full of energy do not turn into dependents.

This is what volunteers of the charity project did in 2022:

  • handed out 363,289 portions of hot meal to the needy,
  • provided accommodation for the homeless 10,239 times,
  • offered sauna and hairdresser’s services 6,677 times,
  • handed out 1,020 sets of clothes and shoes,
  • social patrol picked up the homeless 278 times,
  • handed out 1,770 food sets,
  • found day-to-day jobs for 2,204 people.

“Market sellers started to take clothes and shoes from our social second-hand store and resale them”

A social second-hand store is another area. Disabled people, veterans, large families, lonely pensioners, fire victims and all the needy are provided with clothes and shoes. They all receive clothes and shoes free after providing documents or certificates once in three months during the season. All this is registered, there are photo reports.

“The social second-hand store became a kind of exchange point. Citizens bring things, while the needy take them. It became very popular, people never stop coming. We recently had to make a decision and fix a symbolic price for things, 500 rubles as maximum because some started to abuse this service — market sellers started to take clothes and shoes from our social second-hand store and resale at a higher price. Now the raised money is spent on electrical energy, rent and other needs,” said Director of Human Shelter points in Kazan Marat Salemgarayev.

As it turned out, the store has a lot of women’s clothes now, children’s clothes are second in terms of their amount, but there is not enough men’s clothes. “Apparently, men wear their clothes out,” the project’s organisers assume.

The Human Shelter project develops not only in Kazan but also in districts of the republic. The latest hot meal site opened in Buinsk. The next will start operating son in Pestretsy, next to the settlement’s cathedral mosque.

Milyausha Kashafutdinova
Analytics Tatarstan