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COVID-19 Lockdown Adds To Misery Of Moscow’s Homeless

A person wears a protecting swimsuit and a fuel masks as he walks alongside a road in central Moscow on March 21, 2020. STRINGER / AFP/ Russia OUT


Pushing apart a flap, hungry women and men enter a darkened tent within the courtyard of a Moscow church.

“Only two per table please,” says Valentina, a volunteer in a hospital robe, gloves and surgical masks.

“Don’t crowd!” she says, and three males transfer silently aside, sinking spoons into powdered mashed potatoes.

Solely 16 individuals are allowed in at a time — in an area that usually would accommodate dozens.

The repurposed military tent dubbed the Rescue Hangar is likely one of the few locations the place the Russian capital’s rising homeless inhabitants can discover meals and medical help in the course of the coronavirus lockdown.

Affiliated with the Orthodox Church and funded largely by donations, the hangar usually serves round 100 folks per day.

However since Moscow imposed its lockdown to sluggish new coronavirus infections, as many as 500 go to looking for a sizzling meal on some days, volunteers say.

The town of 12 million has just one authorities shelter, so its homeless have lengthy needed to depend on charity.

They used to have the ability to depend on staff at eating places setting apart leftovers, however this ended once they closed with the lockdown.

With residents shut in to their residences, homeless individuals are additionally not getting the road handouts they typically used to purchase meals.

“The decrease in people traffic in Moscow has been a huge blow to the homeless population,” says Roman Skorosov, the Rescue Hangar coordinator.

Many are even struggling to search out sizzling water or a bathroom since procuring centres closed, charity staff instructed AFP.

And their numbers are rising.

“There are a lot of newly homeless, people who worked odd jobs without contracts and lived in cheap hostels,” Skorosov says.

“They are now on the streets.”

– Sleeping on trains –

Vladimir Petrovsky, who has been sleeping tough for a number of years and visited the Hangar for a meal, jokes that he has a “three-bedroom flat” — referring to Moscow’s three central prepare stations many favour for shelter.

With restrictions tightened at stations and parks, Petrovsky is sneaking onto a late-night suburban prepare out of Moscow, then taking an early morning prepare again to the town. The technique lets him sleep for about 4 hours.

Volunteers say police have fined some homeless individuals who have failed to provide a compulsory move for being exterior, launched in Moscow in the course of the lockdown.

Petrovsky, a 67-year-old Ukrainian, mentioned police have let him go along with a warning after he failed to provide a move.

“How can I get a pass if I don’t even have a passport?” he asks.

Discovering a meal has change into tougher, he says, with police concentrating on some teams who feed the homeless.

Final week police detained 4 volunteers from Kursky Prepare Station Homeless, which brings sizzling meals to the station twice every week, says its coordinator Oleg Olkhov.

“They were accused of creating a crowd and fined,” Olkhov says, pledging to proceed offering meals.

“Twice the usual number of people now come for meals,” he says.

– ‘15,000 homeless’ –

When Moscow’s mayor ordered the lockdown in March, activist Alania Zhurkina reached out to the town authorities, calling for a technique to assist at-risk homeless folks self-isolate.

The energetic redhead who directs the Home of Buddies charity obtained a reply one month later that the town operates a shelter.

That facility has a capability of about 1,000, whereas the variety of homeless in Moscow is estimated at some 15,000, Zhurkina says.

Many in want are usually not native and have fallen by way of the cracks of unemployment help.

“It’s not their fault that in Russia you often need to come to Moscow to find a job,” she says.

Zhurkina has taken issues into her personal fingers, arranging to lease low-cost hostels that usually home Moscow’s short-term labourers.

Her “Shelter” undertaking already has a ready listing of 200 folks and she or he launched a second hostel this week.

Regardless that her organisation’s funds are drying up, Zhurkina says she won’t trouble writing to the town once more for assist.

“What am I going to do, wait another 30 days for a reply?” she says. “The city has forgotten that homeless people exist.”


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