Important 14:55 04 Jan 2023

I have no home: how to help homeless in winter

About 800,000 Ukrainians lost their homes due to russia's war. This significantly aggravates the problem of homelessness in the country. Moreover, the government is busier with defense than with social projects. In our text, we explain volunteer projects and the state's solutions designed to help people who don't have a home.

What is the problem?

People who die from the cold

People become homeless for various reasons: fraud, violence, addictions, unemployment, and poverty. Today war has been added to this list. According to Ukraine's Ministry of Social Policy, in 2019, there were about 33,000 homeless people, of which about 22,000 were registered as homeless. However, the volunteers claimed that the official figures are almost ten times smaller than the real ones.

Since the beginning of russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the number of Ukrainians who have lost their homes has increased dramatically. At the beginning of July, the authorities released data: about 800,000 Ukrainians were left without apartments and houses due to russian military aggression. Some of these people ended up just on the street.

So, where should the homeless go in the cold? Where will they be accepted? Who in Ukraine cares about them? And how can each of us help people who are homeless and freezing on the street?

допомогти безпритульним

What is the solution?

Heating points and reintegration centers

In every Ukrainian city, local authorities organize heating points for the homeless. It was so in peacetime, and so it is in wartime. If people come to the points of invincibility created because of blackouts to work, warm up and charge their gadgets, here the specifics are somewhat different. At a minimum, it consists of the possibility of spending the night and receiving medical or even legal assistance. Let's talk in more detail with examples.

How does it work?

Shared experiences of different cities

24-hour stationary heating point for socially vulnerable categories of the population, particularly the homeless, operates on the Khmelnytskyi City Center for Social Support and Adaptation territory. This is a room with two beds. According to the director of the center, the homeless and displaced persons are accepted here. People who find themselves in a difficult situation can receive warm clothes and primary medical care. The room is constantly heated. There is an electric kettle, cookies, and hygiene products. No additional documents are required to be in the room.

In case of frost on the institution's territory, social workers and rescuers set up a tent designed for the simultaneous stay of 50 people. It has generators, kettles, a heating stove, cauldrons, five sofas, tables, and benches.

допомогти безпритульним

The Lviv Center for Registration and Night Stay of Homeless Persons has been working non-stop for 15 years. Here homeless people receive not only overnight accommodation and warm food but also help and support. This year alone, the Center's specialists provided 4,000 legal and informational consultations, recovered more than 30 lost documents, and prepared more than 10,000 dinners

The Odesa City Center for the Reintegration of Persons Without a Place of Residence has male and female departments. There, the following options are available for visitors:

  • recovery of documents;
  • registration of place of residence;
  • registration of the status of a person with a disability;
  • drawing up a pension;
  • legal assistance;
  • first aid;
  • bed-place;
  • two hot meals;
  • clothes, shoes (if available);

Volunteers and ambulances bring people from the streets to such centers. Some come alone. Employees of the centers urge citizens not to pass by a homeless person but to tell them about social centers where they can get support. You can find city social assistance centers' addresses and phone numbers on city councils' websites.

Even more helpful solutions!

Public organizations that help the homeless during war

Some volunteers and organizations take care of homeless people in Ukraine. One such organization is the Chernivtsi NGO Vertikal. In cooperation with the city's Department of Social Policy, the organization created a night-stay center for the homeless. In this place, you can come to sleep, do laundry, bathe, and eat. The center carries out psychological and spiritual-educational work, and people are helped with certificates and documents and given clothes. The organization plans to continue. There are plans to organize hairdressing services in the overnight stay center, attract more funds to care for the homeless, and buy mobile shower cabins.

допомогти безпритульним

In Vinnytsia, the Rays of Hope Center takes care of people with a bitter past and a brutal fate. Homeless people live in a house purchased by volunteers with their funds. "Ray of Hope" provides people with the following assistance:

  • the opportunity to wash, shave, etc.;
  • feeds hot food;
  • provides clothes and shoes;
  • provides medication.

So far, five people have found shelter in the center in the village of Hrizhyntsi. They, in turn, try to be helpful during the war — weaving camouflage nets and making trench candles for our defenders.

допомогти безпритульним

In Lviv, the homeless are helped by Emaus – Oselya, an organization that was one of the first in Ukraine to start supporting homeless people in every possible way. In 2003, it created a unique community where those who find themselves in a problematic situation live and work together, run a joint economy and help others. In November alone, about a thousand people could shower, get a haircut, wash their clothes, get sets of new clothes and hygiene products, get hot lunch, and medical care in the support center for homeless people. 

The sanitary and hygienic support center, operating at Emaus Oselya for 14 years, has long since grown into a Social Support Center for people who have lost their homes. Today, they not only clean things up here but also help Ukrainians who suffered from russian aggression to survive a difficult time.

допомогти безпритульним

The charity organization Bez Doma has been offering free lunches to poor and homeless people every Saturday at 2 p.m. at Kyiv's Southern railway station for a few months. An average of 300 people receive a hot lunch per day! The menu includes sandwiches, fruit, sweets, and hot dishes. Volunteers give out shoes and clothes to those in need — parcels with things are sent by followers and friends of the organization from all over Ukraine and beyond. 

Each handout is a powerful energy charge for everyone participating in it. People come here for hot food, news, and communication. People often help volunteers and congratulate each other on holidays and birthdays.

допомогти бездомним

Suka Zhizn is a Kyiv project that grew from an Instagram account in 2017. Initially, the founder of the initiative, a videographer from Kyiv who prefers not to advertise his name, published photos from the lives of homeless people to draw attention to the problem. After all, each such person has a sad story that led them to the street.

At some point, it became clear that the project should help. Today, hundreds of homeless and helpless people in Kyiv have already received help and support from the project. Project participants distribute hot food and clothes to the homeless and needy every Tuesday. The first delivery point is in Podil, and the second is in Darnytsia. All this is thanks to volunteers and followers of the account. But they give away not only food. As the founder of the social project himself says, "together we feed and warm the homeless, help them with documents and jobs, search for relatives and return home, protect the rights of homeless people and registration." 

Also, for the sixth year in a row, Suka Zhizn and the Laska charity shop are launching the Package of Warmth initiative to collect clothes and other items for the homeless before the New Year. The project collects warm things to give a little kindness and warmth for the holidays to people who have long forgotten what it is like to receive holiday gifts. 

допомогти безпритульним

The Kherson Center for Reintegration of Homeless and Released Persons Hope survived the occupation. People lived next door to the russian military. According to the director of the center Valentyn Lapytskyi, permanent friends of the institution helped financially to survive the occupation. Some supported them even after moving abroad. In the first days and weeks of the occupation, there were more wards in the institution; the organization refused no one assistance. Valentyn had to be careful because the occupiers were interested in the institution's activities. That's why they worked with little publicity. They greeted the day of the liberation of Kherson with tears in the center. 

Now the frosts have come to the Kherson region, which, with the raging steppe wind, feels 10 degrees colder. But in the Hope center, there is an unchanging coziness. It's improvised: the broken windows are covered with film, a stove is burning in the large room, and a gas convector heats the other rooms. And the generator is running, so there is always electricity in the center. The shelling of the city does not stop, but the center believes that they will endure and thank everyone who is currently supporting the homeless.

How each of us can help the homeless in winter

допомогти бездомним

  • In advance, write down or print the addresses of heating points and centers that take care of vulnerable sections of the population. Find out on the pages of foundations and public organizations about points where you can get food or clothes for free. The next time you see someone who needs help, you can immediately advise where to go.
  • Buy a homeless person hot tea or coffee, but not alcoholic drinks. Remember, alcohol does not help to warm up. It expands blood vessels, so even though it seems to a person that they have started to warm up, they will lose heat faster.
  • Bring the person warm food: soup, instant noodles, or porridge. Do not offer money. It is better to use it to buy a hot meal in the nearest cafe or supermarket.
  • Give a homeless person a warm sweater, scarf, hat, gloves, and socks. 
  • If you see a homeless person who needs medical attention, call the doctors and, if possible, wait for their arrival. 
  • Tell about specialized funds and organizations, good deeds, and homeless problems on social media; this way, more people can join in helping.

The most effective way to help is to show attention to a needy person. Do not show aggression or disgust, but direct them to where someone will assist them. 

This article was created by the Rubryka online publication within the Ukraine Rapid Response Fund program, implemented by IREX with the support of the US State Department. The content is the sole responsibility of the Rubryka online publication and does not necessarily reflect the views of IREX or the US State Department.



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