Floating shelter opened for Prague's homeless population
In the Communist era, it was illegal in this country not to have a place to live. All this has changed in the 16 years since the Velvet Revolution, however, and there are now an estimated 5000 homeless people on the streets of Prague. This has proved to be a difficult problem to deal with, and the homeless have become an increasingly visible presence on the streets of the Czech capital, often sleeping on trams and buses. One of the reasons for this is that no Prague municipality is willing to grant permission for a homeless shelter in its neighbourhood, for fear of becoming a magnet for vagrants. Now the city authorities have come up with a novel solution to this problem. They have commissioned a boat on the Vltava River to house the homeless.
In just three months, the city has managed to turn an old houseboat into a state-of-the-art waterborne hostel with 250 beds. For just 20 crowns, or less than a dollar, homeless people can now get a bed for the night as well as some hot food and access to sanitary facilities.
"It offers very complex services, including social support, hygienic support as well as health services and mental health counselling. So it's really a complete service."
Zdenek Helcer was one of a handful of homeless people who came to the opening to check out the new facilities. He seemed very impressed with what he saw:
"I do not want to see homeless people in trams, buses and underground trains. So we will get security officers to push them to use the special and specific services that we are proffering. I think we are really on the way to solving at least part of this problem. Nevertheless, we know that we will never be able to solve this problem completely."