Expert on homelessness in Czechia: “We have high demand year round”

While the worst of the winter months are behind us, the need for the services that aid people experiencing homelessness in Prague have not diminished. Homelessness continues to be a significant problem across Czechia’s capital, as Jitka Klánová, Director of Social Services for the Salvation Army, told me.

Jitka Klánová | Photo: LinkedIn

“The humanitarian measures that Prague introduced for the winter months are over. The 600 extra beds are no longer provided, so we are back to our normal everyday capacity for our services for people experiencing homelessness in Prague. As we are all experiencing, there is a cold wave right now, and this morning in Prague it was slightly below zero, so the situation is not good. We are still offering all of the services we provide during the year, and we are still seeing a very high demand for them. Our night shelters are full, and so are our day shelters.”

I was reading recently that Czechia has the highest rate of homelessness in Central and Eastern Europe. Is this true?

Photo: Tomáš Mařas,  Czech Radio

“I have to say that I don’t have the data on this so it’s hard to say if it’s true. It’s very difficult to obtain data on homelessness because it’s a very fluid phenomenon – people go in and out of being homeless. There’s also the big phenomenon of ‘hidden homelessness’, where people couch surf or live in hostels, so they aren’t visible to scientists or sociologists. But this is quite a long term trend, we’ve been seeing an increase in demand for our services over the last four years. I would say that factors that have played into this surge are Covid-19 and the refugee crisis with the war in Ukraine. Before, we could see a difference in demand for our services in winter and summer, but now with the climate changing and with the weather becoming more hostile, we have a high demand year round, since the very hot weather is just as deadly as the cold.”

I also read that people experiencing homelessness come to Prague from throughout Central and Eastern Europe to try and live, is this true?

Photo: Patrik Salát,  Czech Radio

“I would say yes, definitely. When it comes to Czechia, Prague has the largest number of homeless people. Since it’s the capital, there are the most jobs here, and also for people who aren’t working, it’s a place where you can get money from tourists. I think some people that come here are already experiencing homelessness and come to Prague for the services available, but also many people from Central and Eastern Europe initially came here as job seekers. Sometimes it can happen that people from Bulgaria, Romania, or Slovakia come to Prague looking for work – but maybe something goes wrong and they lose their job. That’s when they come to us for our services, and many of our clients from this region come to Prague as job seekers first, but then something goes wrong.”