An unusual shelter for the homeless
A few nights ago, as I was walking by Narodni Trida in the centre of the city, which is a popular hang-out spot for the homeless, a loud conversation caught my attention. The couple had made themselves comfortable on the floor close to the entrance of the metro and were fighting over a blanket, or some kind of a rug. The fight began to escalate, swear words filled the air. Then, the woman got up and screamed: "you know what, with people like you among us, it's no wonder that City Hall wants to ship us all away overnight."
Facing a barrage of criticism from humanitarian organisations every winter, the City of Prague defends itself with the argument that it is hard to acquire buildings for homeless shelters as the city's districts don't want them there. But this week, City Hall announced that it has a new plan. Its Council, on Tuesday, decided to approach the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry with the request for a grant to acquire a ship, which could then be reconstructed and turned into a shelter on the Vltava River that runs through the city. The estimated 21 million crown project would offer 250 beds and a canteen with some 175 seats.
Hopefully not all of the city's homeless are as distrusting of the authorities as the woman I overheard the other night. If the rumour should go around that the city's actual motive is to ship its homeless population elsewhere, City Hall would have to take an unusual step - ask for another grant to hold a campaign to persuade the homeless that it will be safe to use the services of its 21 million crown "boatel".