Romania: Helping the homeless

  • International staff: 1
  • National staff: 10 Romania's uneven transition from a planned to a market economy has caused many Romanians to fall through the cracks, unable to afford basic necessities. Many of these people are homeless and lack access to medical care. MSF focuses its work in Romania on the needs of homeless people in Bucharest, who number some 9,000. There is still no network of medical and social assistance for the homeless. So, in September 1999, MSF sponsored a seminar for 25 delegates from city and federal agencies, as well as NGOs, to raise awareness of the problems facing the homeless and coordinate activities of the participating organizations. The results were positive. The government agreed to look into the problem of documentation (needed for services such as health care) for homeless people. The city council said it would pay for food offered at a food distribution point, with MSF providing logistical support. In addition, the national Ministry of Labor and Social Protection began developing a program to support handicapped homeless people. The advocacy stance of MSF is rooted in its work with the homeless on the streets of Bucharest. Medical and social assistance is provided at a drop-in center, and MSF collaborates with a local aid agency, Casa Ioanna, which runs a night shelter. Together the programs reach about 1,500 people. In addition to its work with the homeless, through June 2000 MSF financed several projects run by other groups. MSF funded a program to aid some of Bucharest's many street children through a mobile medical bus clinic that makes nightly rounds. MSF also supported work to prevent child abandonment in Bucharest, as well as a project to help children and families touched by the AIDS virus in Giurgiu, a town near the Bulgarian border. MSF has been working in Romania since 1990.