NGOs extend capacities for homeless as freezing cold spell hits Czechia
Shelters and emergency housing facilities across Czechia have started filling up as the freezing weather drives homeless people off the streets. With nighttime lows likely to stay at around minus 12 degrees for the rest of the week, I spoke to Jitka Modlitbová, head of social services at the Czech branch of the Salvation Army about what they are doing to help.
“Every winter we are increasing our capacities in our social services, here in Prague. This applies to our night shelter and also our day centre. In the day centre not only are the capacities bigger during the day, but also during the night. When it is below zero and when temperatures are as freezing as they are now, we leave the day centre open during the night as well so that people in need can come inside and spend the night inside on so called “warm chairs.”
Have you seen a significant increase in clients these past few days, when night temperatures are dropping to – 12 degrees Celsius?
“Yes, definitely. We can see that our standard capacity is completely full and the “warm chair” that I mentioned is getting increasingly popular among our clients, so we see an increase in client numbers every night.”
Are you able to provide hot food and drinks?
“Yes, we are. Soup is served to our clients both in the day centre and the night shelter. Every winter we cooperate with other services for homeless people and also with the Prague municipality so we are able to increase our capacities even more and to open emergency winter accommodation.”
Do you have any idea how many homeless people there are now on the streets of Prague?
“I would say it is a couple of thousand, but it is really hard to quantify because the number is changing every day.”
And how many are organizations like yours giving shelter to?
“In the whole of the Czech Republic it is thousands of people every day, in Prague we have more than 200 people coming to the day center every day for food and for our other services.”
Sometimes, when the cold spell persists, Prague City Hall erects tent cities for the homeless- is that being considered now?
“In the last few years we have seen a change in mindset in this respect. Instead of erecting tents the city of Prague now tries to find buildings that can be used as so-called hostels, which is less provisional and also gives our clients more dignity.”
And that is happening now?
“That is happening now, yes. There are at least three emergency accommodation facilities open, two of them only in the winter months –from December to March – the other all year long.”
How can people help – I understand that with the so-called Noclezenky it is possible to cover the cost of accommodation for someone?
“Yes, Noclezenky – or Night Vouchers- are vouchers for one night under our roof –one Noclezenlka costs 100 crowns and for that price a homeless person receives a meal, a shower, a bed and also the service of our social workers with whom they can talk about their situation and seek further help.
Thanks to the Noclezenka we are able to provide help to people free of charge throughout the winter months and we are very grateful to all the donors who support us.”
Where can people buy them?
“You can buy them online at Noclezenka.cz, and the site is both in Czech and in English.”