Yerevan’s Homeless To Celebrate New Year in Temporary Shelters

Armenia -- Municipal authorities show a homeless person his temporary shelter, Yerevan, 23Dec2011

Armenia -- Municipal authorities show a homeless person his temporary shelter, Yerevan, 23Dec2011 | Photo from Yerevan.am

The number of Yerevan’s homeless is a mystery. Municipal and State Social Welfare Administrations don’t have reliable data, because the homeless are constantly on the move and in many cases avoid the authorities. And yet, Yerevan’s mayor Taron Margarian has come up with a plan to solve the problem of sheltering them.

On Friday they mayor announced the launch of a joint project of Yerevan’s municipality and “Hans Christian Kofoed” fund, to search for and shelter all the homeless people in the capital before New Year and Christmas holidays.

According to the press announcement, financial means have been allocated to accomodate them, provide basic medical care and “other urgent needs.”

Armenia -- Yerevan's homeless at a temporary shelter provided by municipality and "Hans Christian Kofoed" fund, Yerevan, 23Dec2011

Armenia -- Yerevan's homeless at a temporary shelter provided by municipality and "Hans Christian Kofoed" fund, Yerevan, 23Dec2011 | Photo from Yerevan.am

Head of Municipal Social Welfare Department Ruzanna Zaqarian said, that the authorities plan to register all the homeless, create an inventory of their problems and start working towards finding employment or “other solutions” to their problems.

This is a very welcome move by the mayor, especially ahead of the festive holidays.

The Challenge

My collegue Vahe Sarukhanian, a journalist at Hetq.am, has covered Yerevan’s homeless people extensively. He told me the number of homeless people is definately more than 100 in the capital. As for a more accurate estimate, he says, nobody can be sure.

A Temporary shelter and Center for Supporting Homeless People has been operating in Yerevan’s Haghtanak (Choorod Gyugh) distrcit since 2006. It operates with state funding. The Center accomodates homeless people for a two-month period. During this time the social workers of the center try to address some of their problems.

According to Hetq.am, by the start of this year (during 4 years of operation), the center had returned 22 homeless people to their families, found employment for 20 of them.

A representative of the Ministry of Social Welfare told Hetq.am that 50% of the homeless people return back to Temporary shelter again and again after one or two days after their two-month housing period is over. The shelter can fit 60 people, so there’s always more people in need of a shelter than the center can provide. In winter they try to accomodate more people, cramming up to 100 in the space allocated for 60.

And yet, Vahe Sarukhanian tells me, even when those 100 have been in the temporary shelter, he has seen a lot more homeless people around the city.

Vahe’s articles show us portraits of hopeless and disappointed people (eg. here or here), who have no motivation to solve their problems and go on with life.

So, after the holidays are over, Yerevan’s mayor Taron Margarian will face a question – how long is Yerevan’s municipality, along with supporting donors and funds, ready and able to house those people?

The state-approved rate of sustaining a homeless person for a day is 2500 Armenian drams ($6.5). The state budget has allocated 69 million drams (around $180,000) for taking care of the homeless this year. This would be only enough for 75 people. The funding is up from 54 million drams of last year. But there’s always more in need.

Judging from Taron Margarian’s announcement, the municipality has found additional resources to house those not covered by the state budget, which is great. But their announcement also demonstrates, that the Social Welfare Administration don’t have numbers either. They don’t know if they’re dealing with 25, 50, 100 or 200 homeless. They are just starting to register the homeless and find out about their problems. I hope the municipality people have enough determination and resources to make everything right.

However, as the math above shows, only 20-25% of the homeless return to more or less normal life. What will happen with the rest? Will the municipality house 25, 50, 100 or a much larger crowd forever?

PS: I’m writing this blog-post as a note to myself. To get the facts down and revisit the issue in a couple of days, couple of weeks, couple of months, couple of years. Because it is very hard to see homeless people in the streets of Yerevan and harder to understand, that you can’t really help them. Hopefully, Yerevan’s mayor can.

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17 thoughts on “Yerevan’s Homeless To Celebrate New Year in Temporary Shelters

  1. If this story captured your attention, please also read this article at ArmeniaNow.com.

    Homeless for the Holidays (and Other Times): Yerevan shelter is a haven in winter

    Many homeless people know the place of the Temporary Shelter for Homeless People located in the backyard of Yerevan Boarding-house #1. It is known as the best – and for some, only – place where street people find winter shelter. read more…

  2. how ironic, a woman wearing a fur coat showing a homeless man his temporary shelter…i wonder how can a social worker afford a coat like that…

    • Onnik, thanks. I remember the photostory you made then. It was a hair raising experience to see the misery and the misfortune of the homeless folk in Yerevan.

      While homelessness should not be an issue in a modern and civilized world, these guys are truly left behind in most societies in the world. I am glad that your and other peoples’ work has had a tangible result.

  3. BIG THUMBS DOWN to Observer for NOT approving my very positive comments

    You wont keep me away by not approving my comments
    I will continue to comment, if need be I’ll use an IP switcher to consistently change my IP addr. for every comment, that way at least my comment gets 12-24hrs of posted readible exposure before you delete it

    you will NOT continue to censor me when you blog about turks & french yapping about freedom of speech and allowing others to insult me and my PRO-ARmenian ideaology in their ridiculous anti-Hayastanci comments….AND YOU KNOW DAM WELL IT IS, SO DONT EVEN THINK ABOUT DENYING IT !!!

    and I will continue to say/use GOR-GOR all I want
    you’ll never stop me from saying it here, there, or any where
    if need be when I arrive in Hayastan in spring or summer 2012
    I WILL PROUDLY WEAR A SHIRT THAT READS…I HATE GOR-GORS !

    enough is enough. I put up with this moderation crap for this entire year, I’m tired of you blocking-deleting-moderating my comments as you allow others to post whatever they want. no more, either approve mine or I’ll use an IP switcher and guaranteed get 12-24hrs posted readable exposure. I’ve been nice about it for too long, no more mr. nice guy….we can play this the easy way or hard way ….ay gor-goraser !!!!!!!

    thats why you busting your ass 12-18 hrs and can barely feed yourself and family, because you bowing down to the ppl who want you to be in the vichak that you are. LMFAOOO or you really think gor-gors are going to be superman and come to save your life??? vay ara, keep thinking like that, its that exact mentality that will keep you in your vichak. ay ara when you learn to unite with your brethren, and think with your brain and not your heart, then you will see your life change for the better. until then…that homeless shleter is looking pretty good about now ha?

    • you will NOT continue to censor me when you blog about turks & french yapping about freedom of speech and allowing others to insult me and my PRO-ARmenian ideaology in their ridiculous anti-Hayastanci comments….
      >>your ideology is anti-Armenians and pro-enemies of Armenia. u verj

      and I will continue to say/use GOR-GOR all I want
      you’ll never stop me from saying it here, there, or any where
      if need be when I arrive in Hayastan in spring or summer 2012
      I WILL PROUDLY WEAR A SHIRT THAT READS…I HATE GOR-GORS !
      >>maybe this T-shirt will be the only way you get some attention. doing that shows you are in misery.

      >>thats why you busting your ass 12-18 hrs and can barely feed yourself and family
      Maybe Observer is hardworking that is why he works 12-18 hours, unlike you spamming the internet 24 hours with senseless hate filled speech

      PS: Observer jan, I recommend you set up a donation option because your reporting service is truly unique, neutral and highlights many issues which usually do not get covered by mainstream media. I cannot speak of others, but personally I will be more than glad to contribute. I visit your blog on a daily basis. A big thumbs up for your efforts

    • Hi Andranik,

      I see you have idea and opinion on everything. Why don’t you open your own blog to share those with the world?

      Thanks.

  4. I live in Germany. Homeless people are not in financial distress, but are either alcoholics or drug addicts (mainly heroin). I wonder how’s the situation in Armenia?

    • From what I have seen personally and heard from other people, our homeless are mostly alcoholics. I don’t know of drug use being a big problem for them.

      • I hope the registered numbers do not exceed 200, it is a manageable problem. Homeless people in Berlin alone exceed 5000 people, though it is also a mysterious number because most of the alcoholics/junkies do not register as homeless. Nevertheless, this is one small step in the right direction. Rehabilitiation and reintegration into normal citizen life should be the next step.

        “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

      • I do not think alcoholism is the initial cause, I think it is a coping mechanism which turns into a vicious cycle.

        During my social coursework, we were assigned to homeless shelters to observe the homeless people and the causes of homelessness. In my city, the predominant causes were:
        – mental illness including depression as people were unable to be employable and there is no social framework to help the mentally disabled people;
        – among teen homelessness, it was sexual orientation as gay kids are kicked out of their homes and are too young to be able to provide for themselves (I think about 60% of child homelessness is cause by this);
        – economic bad luck when the family is unemployed and lose their house so they initially live in their car and then in the streets;
        – substance abuse like alcoholism and drug abuse;
        – a combination of lack of skills and unwillingness to commit crime.

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