Blast of Arctic weather sees charities scrambling to help homeless
Arctic conditions, with night time lows dropping to – 30 degrees Celsius in places are making life difficult for people around the country. For homeless people the conditions are life-threatening and charity organizations are scrambling to meet the challenge, expanding the capacity of their shelters and seeking out homeless people to offer assistance. Even so, six people are reported to have frozen to death since the onset of Arctic conditions last Thursday. I spoke to Pavla Vopeláková from the Czech branch of the Salvation Army about what is being done and whether the emergency measures taken are sufficient.
I know that some homeless people don’t actually want to go to shelters. Are you able to help those who don’t come to you by getting food or medicine to them?
“We have a night street programme, street workers who make the rounds at night looking for these people. Of course, our primary aim is to try to get them to a shelter, because if they stay on the street, it can really lead to death. It is a life-threatening situation. Of course, we can provide blankets, we can give them basic food or a hot cup of tea or coffee. But our aim is to provide accommodation, to give them shelter, so they don’t stay on the street.”
“Yes, during these bad weather conditions people can spend most of the day at our centres. There is one hour when they have to leave so we can clean up the centre. But after that they can return and spend the rest of the day and night in the warmth.”
And do you offer hot food, hot drinks?
“We offer hot drinks and also hot soup because that’s essential for people to warm up. We have also increased the capacity of one of our hostels in Vackov in Prague, where people can get blankets. So when they come for the first night, they get a blanket and they can keep it. If they lose the blanket we still have some more available, so they can get another one. I just want to say that we are very grateful for any kind of donations from the public, especially warm shoes, warm coats, scarfs, gloves, anything that can keep people warm.”
How many homeless people are we talking about in Prague and how many beds do you have for them?