Russia: homeless shelters to be built in new neighbourhoods?
Can shelters in new-build neighbourhoods help homeless people?
Proposals have been made to update Russia’s town planning regulations that would make it compulsory to include homeless shelters in construction plans for new neighbourhoods
According to Izvestiya, the homeless shelters building proposal was instigated by members of the State Duma committee for citizens’ housing rights, who sent their idea to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova and head of the Ministry of Construction Irek Faizulin.
Their proposal would amend Russia’s town planning regulations so that it would be compulsory to include shelters in any construction plans for new-build neighbourhoods. They are suggesting that a network of shelters should be developed across the whole country.
ASI asked Nochlezhka, a well-established charity that supports homeless people, whether the initiative would be effective.
“Shelters differ according to the various needs they cater for,” says Tatyana Bazhenova, public engagement officer at Nochlezhka. She is not entirely clear about the type of shelter being proposed: there are “warm spaces”, where you can temporarily spend the night; and then there are shelters, where people can stay for some time to sort out their issues.
“Warm spaces” offer short-term help. They are there to save lives by stopping people from freezing to death on the street. A shelter is a gradual social reintegration project, which not only helps people to avoid dying on the street, but also enables them to get away from that environment altogether. While living in a shelter, they can find work, improve their health etc. “The country needs both types,” Bazhenova explains.
But staff at Nochlezhka think it is still a good idea to build shelters in new neighbourhoods. Even just a temporary sanctuary contributes to helping people stay alive and healthy.
According to Bazhenova, homeless shelters are currently in short supply. That means they are not just needed in new neighbourhoods but in old ones too.
“For existing shelters, places are normally very limited. Sometimes, a “warm space” might only be able to take 3–5 people. That’s a vanishingly small amount, considering that there are more than 100,000 homeless people in Moscow, and around 60,000 in St Petersburg,” she says.
Shelters should be practical and functional. There should be a comfortable place to sleep, a toilet and bathroom, and preferably a kitchen where people can cook their own food.
Equally, Bazhenova says, communal areas with televisions and computers would not go amiss either. It is not just about having somewhere to relax. Homeless people can use those areas to search for job vacancies and rental listings for new accommodation.
That said, building shelters is “only one step on the road to establishing a comprehensive support system for homeless people.”