Czech Republic: Romani Residents Persevere Through Poor Living Conditions
A large hole in the ceiling, bigger than a toilet bowl, leaks water onto the bathroom floor in the apartment of a Romani woman in Bohumin, Czech Republic. She has to put a bucket underneath the hole when the neighbors who live above her shower in order to prevent the place from flooding.
Romea.cz interviewed the woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, in her home on 11 July 2017. “The landlord doesn’t care about us,” she said.
She said she had been applying to be considered for social housing since February and had been rejected. “I needed a different flat because it was dangerous but social workers and other officers said no,” she told Romea.cz.
Currently she lives in private housing where she pays CZK 10 000 [EUR 380] per month. She has been living there for six months and had to place a CZK 21 000 [EUR 805} deposit on the apartment.
The apartment has one door and three "rooms": One bedroom, one combined kitchen and living room, and one bathroom, all of which are separated just by curtains. The kitchen has one sink, but no faucet, so the tenant has to bring water from the shower to cook.
The woman said she is often visited by her neighbors living in similar conditions and that they form a tight-knit community. Previously, she lived in Ostrava.
At one point she lived in a shelter, but such facilities are often cramped and expensive. Another downfall to living in a shelter is that husbands must live separately from their wives and children.
Families in such situations, therefore, must spend money to pay for housing in two locations rather than just one. She is currently applying to live in municipal housing.
The woman said she has close ties with the nongovernmental organization Romodrom, which has been helping her search for housing over the past year. Municipal housing costs slightly less or roughly the same as private housing, but she hopes to receive an apartment that will provide better conditions for her children.
She currently lives with her two sons, ages one and five. She plans to send her five-year-old next year to a school that is further away, rather than to the all-Romani school located closer to home.
This woman’s story is another piece of a larger narrative of the precarious housing situation that many Romani families find themselves in. The issue of social housing continues to hinder the lives of the Roma, threatening to destroy their futures.
Repeated failures to come up with effective laws that are sufficiently enforced insults the dignity of Roma families struggling to maintain respectable livelihoods. Social housing should be affordable to every person who cannot afford commercial housing, and should be fit to live in without worry of sanitation issues - the Roma people deserve the human right to adequate housing.
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