Crisis pushing up homeless numbers as Czechia freezes

Shelters and temporary housing across Czechia are starting to fill up with homeless people who are being driven off the streets by freezing cold weather that hit the country in recent days. However, many organizations caring for those sleeping rough, especially in the capital, say they are already full.

Photo: Martin Dušek,  Czech Radio

Over the last few days, temperatures across Czechia remained deep below freezing point, putting people living on the streets in serious risk. While charity organisations have expanded their services to meet the growing demand, many say they have already reached their limit, since the number of clients seeking help is much higher than in previous years.

Daniel Svoboda is the director of the Prague branch of the Naděje (Hope) charity:

“Already in 2021, for the first time in 13 years, we saw a seven percent increase in the number of clients. This November, the number of clients was 25 percent higher than in the previous year.

“Many people can no longer afford to stay in private hostels, because they are getting more expensive, and so they seek help in different kinds of shelters.”

Daniel Svoboda | Photo: LP-Life / YouTube

According to Daniel Svoboda, the freezing weather is not the only reason behind the growing number of clients. Another major factor is the economic crisis and soaring energy prices.

While the shelters run by Prague municipality are also reporting full capacity, the head of the Czech branch of the Salvation Army, František Krupa, says their facilities are still accepting new clients:

“I wouldn’t say that there are a lot more people on the streets, at least based on our data, but other organisations can of course have a different experience.

“However, we are certainly worried about what will happen in the coming months and years, and we definitely see that our clients are growing more concerned.

 “There is growing pressure on these people that they won’t be able to pay their living costs and they will end up on the streets.”

Mr Krupa also warns that once people end up on the streets, it is much more difficult and costly than preventing them from losing their home in the fist place.

At the moment, Salvation Army facilities can accommodate around 2,500 clients a day, with services ranging from social housing to day centres and dormitories, says Mr Krupa:

“During the winter season, we keep our day centres open for the night so that people can take shelter from the cold. In most towns and cities we cooperate with local authorities to increase the capacity of our night shelters. In some places, such as in Prague, we are also involved in an outreach program to get the homeless off the streets, which can save their lives.”

As in previous years, Salvation Army has also launched the sale of special vouchers, called Nocleženky in Czech, which enables the homeless to spend the night in the warmth and get hot drinks and food.

Jak Nocleženka pomáhá?