ISSN 2330-717X

Moscow’s Homeless Population Swells In Summer – OpEd

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The Russian media and hence the Russian people tend to focus on the problems of the homeless during the wintertime because of the obvious problems such people have when it is cold and when the inability to find shelter may quickly lead to death. But the bigger problem in Russia, experts say, is in the summer.

That is because it is in the summer months that Russians from the regions flood into major cities and especially Moscow hoping to find work or a better life, find neither and are forced to live on the streets. The situation in the capital is especially dire for two reasons (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/06/17/nemytaia-rossiia-ne-mozhet-uekhat-domoi).

On the one hand, the Moscow-centric worldview of most Russians makes it the largest magnet for such people in the country and brings thousands into the city each summer. And on the other, Moscow unlike St. Petersburg has a completely inadequate system for providing even minimal services to these people.

There are only four places in Moscow where the homeless can take showers and wash their clothes, three opened by the city government and one by an NGO; but a second NGO, A Place to Stay, has been blocked in its attempt to open a place where at least some homeless can find beds for the night unlike in St. Petersburg where there has been one since 2016.

Several private organizations, including the Salvation Army, deliver food and sanitary supplies to those on the streets, helping hundreds every day. But because few of the homeless can get showers or wash their clothes, they find it far more difficult to get work or even return home.

That situation is much worse in the summertime when the absence of cleanliness is much more noticeable than it is in winter, Novaya gazeta journalists say on the basis of time spent with the homeless in the capital.  Indeed, many homeless are blocked by others from using public transportation to get around.

All too many Muscovites wish these people would simply disappear. There are the usual NIMBY attitudes about any serious effort to help them. But unless and until conditions improve in the regions, more needs to be done for the street people in the Russian capital, perhaps especially in the summer months when few think about their suffering. 

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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