Cold snap driving up demand for Salvation Army services

This past week, Czechia has seen temperatures drop below -20 degrees in the north of the country, while Prague expects to see a low of -11 by mid-week. The extreme cold has a profound impact on vulnerable groups, specifically those who are unhoused, who turn to organizations like the Salvation Army for help during the winter months. I spoke with the director of social services at the Salvation Army, Jitka Klánová to learn more about what the organization is doing to keep people warm.

Photo: Martin Dušek,  Czech Radio

The temperatures in Prague have dropped quite suddenly in what has been a relatively mild winter. Are you seeing an increased demand at the Salvation Army for your services with this cold snap?

“Yes definitely, more and more clients are coming to use our services, especially the low threshold ones like day shelters and night shelters. The Salvation Army and other organizations are part of a winter humanitarian measures program that is provided by the municipality of Prague every winter from December to the end of March. These days, with the low temperatures, we can see an extra demand in all these extra humanitarian services that are opened for these four months of the year.”

You mentioned some extra measures that are in place during the winter months, can you tell me a bit about them?

“There are five winter night shelters that are open from December to the end of March, and they are all open for free for men and women, and people can use them even if they are not completely sober.  Another measure that was opened this season is called 24/7 Houses, there are two of them and their capacity is about 120 people. These are intended for people who are in poor medical condition, either coming from a hospital, or a longer care facility, or for people who are ill and need a bed to get better. So there are two of these buildings filled with people who need not only social care, but also medical attention.”

Photo: Salvation Army

With the resources available right now, is there enough space to accommodate everyone? Or are you having to turn people away, especially on these cold nights?

“So far, the capacities are adequate. What helps is that the municipality of Prague has put dispatchers in action. So each night, Night Street Works pick up people from the streets, call the dispatchers and see where there are still spaces in night shelters or other accommodations. Another help for us is our donors who are still donating to the Night Voucher campaign – where you can buy a night in one of our services for a homeless person. Thanks to our donors, we are able to provide all of our night shelter services for free for the whole winter.”