A tent city for Prague's homeless
Letna Plain in Prague is best-known as a site of communist-era mass parades and outdoor concerts, but the extreme cold-snap of recent days has changed the face of Letna — there are now seven army tents on site, a temporary village for the city's homeless. The daily paper Mlada Fronta Dnes has compared the emergency shelter to a "MASH for the homeless." Linda Mastalir reports.
"This decision was made on the basis of a field survey and it became clear that some people without a roof over their heads don't have a place to go in these Arctic conditions. These people's lives were at risk, so the city administration decided to help them and organize an emergency shelter where they can spend the night."
"The first night there were 65 people who stayed overnight, and last night 158 people stayed in the tent city. In each of these tents there are 20 cots, but since 150 people turned up last night, some did not get an individual cot to sleep on, so they shared and sat on the beds. The important thing is that they were in a warm place. It was impossible to accommodate another 40 people who arrived, so they were taken to overnight in a day-centre where there are only chairs and tables, but even this was surely helpful in their case."
Run by the charitable organization, HOPE, and guarded by police, the site is only in operation during the night.
"There is a 12-hour regime, which means that they can arrive in the evening at 6:30pm when the facility begins accepting people, and their stay ends at 6:30am. Of course part of the service includes basic provisions, some soup, tea, and fruit. We decided on the 12-hour regime partly out of staffing considerations, but I think that by 6:30 in the morning they have the option of going to the various day-centres which open at 7:00am. It's all in line with how this aid works."