Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister says nobody has to live on the street after residential hotels close
The City of Ústí nad Labem is doing its best to gradually arrange housing for the people from two residential hotels that are closing at the end of June. According to City Hall, they have managed to find replacement housing for more than half of the people affected.
Acting Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jaroslava Němcová (ANO), speaking with the Czech News Agency (ČTK) and Czech Radio yesterday after negotiations at City Hall, said there is no reason for anybody to have to live on the street. Yesterday the Konexe association announced to ČTK that the inhabitants of the residential hotels are suing the city before the Regional Court because of their predicament.
The aim of that lawsuit is to halt the applicability of limitations on the disbursal of housing subsidies in selected localities. "Those restrictions just concern new arrivals. The people who have been residing there a longer time will not be affected by the change to the benefit. It has absolutely no influence on the residential hotels," City Hall spokesperson Romana Macová told ČTK.
The minister came to Ústí nad Labem on an unannounced visit. "I am convinced that the situation is being addressed. I believe all these people will manage to be relocated. There is absolutely no reason for anybody to have to live on the street," she said.
Roughly 230 people, at least 80 of whom are children, are living in the two residential hotels slated for closure, one in the center of the city and one in the Střekov quarter. Most of them are Romani.
The operator of the facilities, Lea Anderlová, announced at the end of May that she would close her business as of the end of June. The owner of both buildings, the CPI Byty company, previously stated it would not arrange to operate the facilities itself.
"Some inhabitants have already managed to find housing. Priority is being given to mothers with children, to persons living with disabilities and to senior citizens," the minister said. The city leadership stated it will find places for the remaining roughly 90 people who have not yet been relocated.
In their cases, intensive social work is allegedly continuing that is focused especially on finding these people new housing, according to the city leadership's press release posted online. Among those being evicted from the residential hotels are some whom, according to the minister, have been repeatedly offered substitute accommodation that they have rejected.
"All those who are looking for accommodation will not have to live on the street. The evidence that we do want to aid them is the amount of people who are involved in the coordination of their accommodation," said Mayor Věra Nechybová (the Ústí Forum of Citizens - UFO).
"If anybody does not want this aid, then he or she will have to take care of himself or herself, just like the thousands of other people who pay mortgages and take care of their own housing," the Labor and Social Affairs Minister said. "If those people shout that 'Work is no solution for us', that is an insult to all working people."
A coordination committee of nonprofit organizations, representatives of City Hall and local authorities, and social services providers will convene again in one week. The minister said she believes they will manage to find accommodation for all of the evictees.
The local authorities have also turned to the municipalities and towns where the residential hotel evictees are registered as permanent residents. According to the minister, it is exactly those municipalities that should be taking care of the citizens registered as resident on their territories.
"Each specific family from every single room is being worked with," the minister said. Despite that claim, some organizations are criticizing the approach taken by the city and by the field social workers.
Last week Amnesty International called on City Hall to undertake a responsible, systematic solution to the situation of the two residential hotels. The minister rejects such criticism.
According to the Konexe association, the evictees' lawsuit against the city includes a motion for a preliminary injunction. The aim of the lawsuit is to halt the applicability of limitations on disbursing housing benefits in selected localities.
Legal representation for the evictees was provided by the Forum for Human Rights. "Despite the fact that the city is doing its best to allege that it is not liable for arranging substitute accommodation for the evictees, the opposite is the case. If the municipality remains absolutely inactive, it will commit an illegal intervention against the most vulnerable groups of inhabitants, including children. We believe the Regional Court will provide adequate protection to these families," said Tereza Bártová of the Forum for Human Rights.
"Our work with these people is succeeding, they are asking us for aid, they are visiting the Social Welfare Department, the Labor Office can also provide them money for deposits. There is no risk of homelessness," a city spokesperson said.
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