Today’s letter will be rather sad, I’m afraid. I will tell you about an attack on a group of homeless people in Moscow and share the story of a woman living in our Shelter.
We found out that some homeless clients of another charity, ‘Doctor Liza’, were assaulted from an article published by our colleagues, a platform called Takie Dela. They quoated an employee of the charity reporting that a group of homeless people who were queuing for some food and clothes were approached by a few men wearing camouflage uniforms and breathing masks. They told the homeless people to ‘clear off’ and than sprayed some gas into their faces. Several people suffered burns as a result.
This can only be qualified as a crime. As my colleague, Dasha Baibakova, the head of Nochlezhka’s branch in Moscow, very accurately pointed out, ‘the state policy of dealing with homelessness is not providing assistance to these people but responding to complaints from people who for one reason or another find the homeless disturbing or uncomfortable. Therefore many homeless people see this social patrol as an oppressive organisation’.
The only consolation I found in this atrocious story is the way people reacted to the news. Again and again I read Nochlezhka’s followers’ comments where they say that this is unacceptable and attacking anyone, regardless of their behaviour, looks and emotions they evoke, is simply wrong. Because it is homelessness that they need to fight and not the homeless. While people who have ended up on the streets require assistance.
Elmira is 71 and she is currently sleeping at our Night shelter.
Elmira is one of the 221 people who have used our Night Shelter since we opened it. And she’s one of tens of thousands of homeless people who need help.
17 years ago, her husband and son died in a car crash. She went through deep depression and spent almost a year in hospital, then lived in Canada for three years and moved to St. Petersburg.
The woman has to beg now to buy something to eat. It’s nigh on impossible to find a job in her age. Every night she comes to our Night Shelter near Obukhovo and speaks with great warmth of the people who help her.
Elmira is one of the four people portrayed in an article by The Village.They all tell their story and how they came to Nochlezhka. These stories are very different and they evoke very different feelings, from sympathy to puzzlement. And still, I think these interviews show how many ways can lead to homelessness and how unexpectedly one can find himself on the street.
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