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Homeless People: No Chance for New Life?
July 30, 2007 19:07

Recently the State Duma has been introduced a bill aimed to solve the problem of homeless people in Russia. The document says the government has to support over 4 million Russian vagabonds. The bill opponents are confirmed beggars will hardly forget their “free life” and 90% of them will return to garbage dumps. The author of the bill believes circumstances made homeless people roam about the country and collect leavings. Experts say Russia numbers about 4 million vagabonds, though the Ministry of Internal Affairs provides the data only about 300 thousand beggars.

Psychologists in their turn are assured that only 7% of the homeless roam out of pure idea, 10% left their home for family reasons and never came back, about 20% are the victims of criminal privatization taken place in the beginning of the 1990s, but the most part of vagabonds consists of former prisoners deprived of home in times when the Soviet Criminal Code was valid, though their number is growing even now, as 250 thousand convicts go at large annually and very few of them can find a job and have a place to live.

The main problem of the homeless is that they have no passport, which was lost or stolen, and without this document they can’t be considered citizens of “full value”. Nevertheless, the bill doesn’t imply that all vagabonds should be given newly made passports, because in this case they must be registered at the place of permanent residence and, therefore, provided with apartments. The bill fixes a number of social guarantees for the homeless, but to make use of them the homeless will have to go through several procedures: they will be sanitized, taken pictures of and asked about their former occupation– only after that they will receive a document securing free medical aid, dinner and a place to live and work. Those, who refuse to be subjected to “bureaucratic tortures”, will go to prison for 10 days for the first time and then, if it can’t change their decision, for a year.

The project doesn’t specify how long the government should finance beggars in a welfare hotel and nobody can stand surety that they will start a new life and give up begging. Indeed, a experiment conducted in Stavropol, South Russia, showed that only 5% of the homeless prefer to stay in a welfare hotel, all others go back to their garbage dumps probably thinking that collecting paper, scrap metal and torn clothes brings more money than a regular job.

Some deputies offer another variant to set a normal life for the homeless. There are lots of abandoned villages in Russia, where anybody can live and work, but the chance that vagabonds take advantage of this idea is exceptionally small.

Perhaps this problem should be solved differently, not at the governmental level. In the whole world special organizations supported by private donations are occupied with social integration of the homeless. Volunteers work with former vagabonds, teach them new professions and help to find a place in life. In Russia, unfortunately, a stray dog will sooner find help and human’s care than a homeless person.



Olga Pletneva

Tags: Russian people Russian laws society   

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