Moscow city council increases efforts to direct homeless to shelters

Click on image for large version. "This initiative shows that the authorities have responded to our call and are finally taking responsibility to help marginalized Moscovites who are dying in the streets," said Alexey Nikiforov, coordinator of the MSF program in the Russian capital.
The city council of Moscow has taken the initiative to produce and distribute posters for its homeless population of close to 100,000 people. With the posters, the city is trying to encourage the homeless to seek shelter against the fierce winter conditions they face in Moscow as well as provide essential information to the general public. Temperatures regularly fall below minus 30 celsius. At the start of this winter season, the Moscow council agreed to allocate a specific number of beds and increase facilities for the homeless. But these efforts were largely unannounced and consequently not known by the very people who would best benefit by the change - the homeless. In addition, although the city council had said that 1,600 beds were to be made available, when MSF checked on capacity in early January, only 746 beds had been freed - fewer than 50% of the target. This poster campaign by the Council is a clear effort on the part of the local administration to increase both access to facilities as well as awareness within the general population. MSF has been campaigning for better care for these people throughout the past years and very much welcomes this new initiative. "This initiative shows that the authorities have responded to our call and are finally taking responsibility to help marginalized Moscovites who are dying in the streets," said Alexey Nikiforov, coordinator of the MSF program in the Russian capital. The posters, distributed by the Social Defense Service throughout the city streets, squares and metro stations, list the addresses of eight shelters where people can find food, shelter and medical care. Action was urgently required as, on average, no less than four people die on Moscow streets each and every winter day. To date this winter, over 330 homeless have been found dead due to the harsh weather conditions. In its ten years of working with the Moscow homeless, this MSF project has assisted over 70,000 homeless with medical care and support for reintegration into society. A quarter of Moscow's street dwellers are former prisoners; the authorities provide virtually no support for people who leave jail and try to re-enter a normal life.