Winter is always the most challenging period of the year for people living on streets. During the winter all our services are filled to the capacity. This 2013/2014 winter was mild and dry which resulted in average 150-160 people per night in the nightshelter, which is less than during the cold winter. Those who live on streets usually try to keep their good places occupied and are not willing to risk losing them only until it is really necessary. Yes, life on street might be really harsh.
Every year during the Christmas season we try to prepare something special for our clients. With the help of our sponsors we served in all our projects typical Christmas meals and every client got a personal Christmas gift. During the week after Christmas when all shops and malls were closed and people living on streets have no chance to get warm, we opened our nightshelter during the whole day. We installed big heaters, served food, hot tea and cakes donated to us and we showed films. Our clients were really excited.
Some of our clients are really creative and gifted. For example Pavel from St. Louisie shelter developed a technology to fit a roof for his model houses from fir cones. The whole November and December a group of clients in shelter worked hard to help Pavel to produce enough “Betlehems” for Christmas. “Betlehem” is a typical Slovak folk art decoration for Christmas season. Before Christmas they sold “Betlehems” on streets and Pavel earned enough income to cover his trip to eastern Slovakia. After many years he was able to spend Christmas with his family.
Depaul Slovakia operates four projects for people sleeping rough in Bratislava. The biggest one is
low-threshold Night Shelter St. Vincent de Paul which provides beds, food, medical first aid, clothes and social assistance for up to 175 homeless people. We also accept clients which were refused from other shelters due to use of alcohol, missing documents and other problems. We also run two shelters with capacity 55 beds together: Shelters St. Louise de Marillac for sick people and Shelter St. Vincent for people who actively cooperate in solving their situation. Together with St. Elisabeth University of Health and Social Sciences we operate St. Elisabeth drop-in centre which is primarily aimed to help homeless people who do not use any of the existing institutions helping homeless.
The beginning of 2013 was very cold and all our shelters were full. Long winter kept our staff very busy with all projects filled to capacity. On 27th March we even had 194 registered clients in nightshelter, which is maximum clients per night since the opening of the shelter in 2006.
Between February and August of this year we have provided 29 205 beds in the night Shelter (average 139 clients per night), 10 383 stays in both shelters and 1 100 assistances in drop-in centre.
Our primary goal is to help clients survive rough conditions on streets, but we are also trying to keep our clients active and help them move back to a normal life. To accomplish that we work individually with clients and our social workers help them to deal with issues which are keeping them on streets. For clients in shelters we organise regular workshops (creative art or music) and work therapies. In June Depaul theatre group prepared new theatre performance Spoved II (Confession II) which was presented at Malá scéna theatre. Clients planted two gardens (at St. Vincent and at St. Louise shelters) and have grown vegetables which were later used for preparing food.
At the end of 2012 we lost one of our significant donors who was regularly donating food / bread for our services. Facing the shortage of resources we have asked public for a food collection which started at the beginning of February. Thanks to a very positive feedback and great generosity of people we have gathered more than 5 tons of food, and enough food tickets and money which made up missing portion from our lost donor. Some of our donors started regular contribution to cover 4 100 Euro we need every month for providing food for all our clients.
Winter is very difficult period for homeless people. Last 8 years is Depaul Slovakia organizing shelter for them to provide basic needs that are obvious to others. At the end of 2012, Deapul lost his main supplier of bread and now they have to buy each day 30 breads for 25 € (34 USD). This might not be a big amount for us, but for Depaul is – since they didn’t count with this item in budget. If you will donate 1 € (1,5 USD) you will arrange bread for 6 people. Thanks to this project, Breakfast and clean clothes for the homeless, Depual can each day provide 185 clients with bread, hot soup and clean clothes. Monthly they launder nearly 400 blankets, last year it was 3,677 pieces in total. Depaul is providing their clients also with social services – in one of the shelters – St. Vincent shelter they opened painting exhibition – clients could express by using different colors how they see the world.
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program director for corporate volunteering and pro bono