A fraction of the homeless make it into census
Among the first results of last year’s census in the Czech Republic, the Czech Statistical Office released the numbers of homeless people. This is the first attempt to count the number of people living without permanent shelter in the whole of the country. Yet the numbers may be more indicative than realistic.
“We consulted with experts on this issue, specifically with the Association of Asylum Homes and the Association of Social Assistance Providers. We agreed with them that it would be very difficult to include people who do not even communicate with those who offer them help, and it would be almost impossible to have them all fill out a census questionnaire. That’s why we only included people who were willing to communicate and give information about themselves, so that the assistance organizations could then better cater their services to their needs.”
“The numbers are interesting in the respect that they can help us create better services and new ways of working with these people. For example, the age make-up is significant. It shows that it will be important in the future to develop care services for older clients who are no longer able to support themselves.”
The director of the Litoměřice branch of the non-profit organization Naděje, Aleš Slavíček, also noted a shift in the socio-economic status of people who seek out their social services:
“We have noticed that homelessness is becoming more pervasive. We have more middle class clients, who have lost their jobs and have become addicted to alcohol or gambling, they are in debt and end up coming to our community homes. There have been more and more of these cases in the past three to five years, and we think this trend will continue.”
Yet, beside those who do seek out help from assistance organizations and local authorities, the number of people remaining outside the system is unclear. And with some shelters being consistently overbooked, no concrete solution to helping the increasing number of homeless has been articulated.
The head of the social affairs department at the Moravian-Silesian regional administration, Daniel Rychlík, says the solution, at least to some problems, should come from the Czech government:
“The problem of social housing is very hard to resolve for the regional or municipal authorities. I think it’s very important for the central government to define policies concerning social housing, especial for the most vulnerable groups, which is completely non-existent right now.”