Conference on homeless people
Despite the stereotype that has gained currency amongst the public, many of the homeless have not deliberately adopted that way of life and would like to put time in reverse. The organisers of the conference ‘How Contemporary Society Views Homeless People’ held in the capital wanted to investigate the problems and to dispel the myths that give rise to prejudice in relation to such people. A number of charities concerned with the issues have announced the start of ‘The Year of the Homeless in Moscow’.
Andrei Pentyukhov, the head of the section in the Moscow department of welfare that is concerned with aid for the homeless, has asked those dealing with people living on the streets not to call them tramps. The original Russian word referred to is an acronym literally denoting someone who has no fixed abode but which has with time acquired a pejorative meaning. Homelessness primarily describes a person’s legal status arising out of their lack of a residential permit in their passport and they often do not even possess a passport. Such people cannot obtain documents, register for a pension or as disabled, qualify for benefits, allowances or medical services, register a marriage, make an application to the court, fix up a meeting with an official, be recognised officially as unemployed or be legally employed, obtain an education, receive money transfers from relatives, buy a train ticket, put up at a hostel or even buy a SIM card. Mr Pentyukhov considers that it would be expedient to register the homeless at a special address set up for the purpose. His section is helping to provide the homeless with documents and the former Muscovites amongst them to find accommodation, whilst trying to repatriate those who are foreigners. There are ten mobile teams operating in the city, which provide social and medical aid to homeless people. Every month two thousand people avail themselves of their services.
Zilya Gutova, the person in charge of the health station in Moscow that provides these services, has spoken of the prejudice displayed by its staff in the early months of its existence. ‘A homeless person is also a patient’, she emphasised and commented that today the station deals with precautions against a number of different diseases (TB, HIV, pediculosis, scabies) that afflict people living on the streets. Ms Gutova thinks that the time has arrived when TB amongst the homeless must be treated. The homeless can be helped by informing them about social hostels where they can live for a time without charge (in the case of former Muscovites); disinfection stations where they can clean up and be given medical treatment; the medical station where they can obtain free medical help; and organisations providing legal advice to the homeless.