The Czech Republic is not doing enough to address the problem of international homelessness, suggests the Prague-based Organisation for Aid for Refugees, which has just released the country’s first Stateless Index. Developed by the European Network on Statelessness, the annual index assesses how various countries protect stateless people and what they are doing to prevent and reduce the problem. I discussed the issue with lawyer Petr Baroch from the Organisation for Aid for Refugees:
There are around 230,830 homeless people living in the Czech Republic,
according to a census carried out in the spring by the research Institute
for Labour and Social Affairs and published on Thursday.
The majority of the homeless are men and about 2,600 people of the total number are people under the age of 18, the report says.
Most of the homeless concentrate in large cities and towns. About 3,250 of them live in the Czech capital.
The international volunteer group Food Not Bombs has been providing free food to the homeless and hungry since 1980, and now has branches throughout the Czech Republic. In recent weeks, police and inspectors in an Ostrava district have been preventing volunteers from distributing food on orders from City Hall officials.
How did the working poor live in Prague during the Austro-Hungarian Empire? In the days of the democratic First Czechoslovak Republic? Under Communism? And what about the homeless of today? Two separate yet complementary exhibitions now at the City of Prague Museum take a novel approach to presenting the capital’s often forgotten, overlooked or unknown history of poverty and homelessness.
A Czech non-profit organisation based in Brno has developed a special mobile phone application for drug users and people living on the streets. Called Čára or Line, it will help them find accommodation, food or free needle exchange. The app, reported to be the first of its kind in Europe, has just been launched for a trial run.
It is generally still easier in the Czech Republic than elsewhere in the EU to hide crucial parts of corporate structures – including the ultimate beneficial owners of a business – from public scrutiny. While registering a business in a non-transparent tax haven is one way for owners to hide their identities, a growing number are taking a more brazen route: paying so-called “white horses” – often homeless people – to act as frontmen.
Municipal police officers have focussed on areas where homeless people
sleep, in an effort to get them to go indoors, to various shelters for the
night. The move comes at a time when the Czech Republic has been hit by
extremely cold weather.
Officers doing their rounds, whether in Prague or towns like Ústí nad Labem and Zlín, have encouraged those sleeping rough to take shelter and have been providing information. Temperatures have fallen well below zero at night, putting lives at risk.
As Arctic conditions take a grip on Central Europe night and day shelters
are filling up with homeless people and charity organizations are seeking
them out on the street to offer assistance. One person is already reported
to have died in Prague as a result of the freezing cold weather.
The situation is expected to worsen in the coming days with night temperatures dropping to – 20 and even – 30 degrees Celsius in places. Children and chronically ill people have been advised to stay indoors.