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Czech Republic: Good and bad examples of helping the poor

Prague, 21.2.2013 18:47, (ROMEA)
Housing for Romani people, Ostrava-style, 2013. A colony for homeless people in abandoned garages. Photo:  František Kostlán
Housing for Romani people, Ostrava-style, 2013. A colony for homeless people in abandoned garages. Photo: František Kostlán

News server Novinky.cz reports that yesterday, 20 February, was the World Day of Social Justice, an effort to draw attention to the topic of poverty and social problems. According to the EU Statistical Office, 15 % of the population of the Czech Republic is jeopardized by poverty and social exclusion, defined as suffering from material deprivation or working less than 20 % of what ordinarily constitutes a full-time work year.

"I think very few people are aware of this, but as far as poverty goes, the Czech Republic is the best off in comparison with other European Union member states. Nevertheless, I consider it important to assist groups of citizens who are at risk, using money from European projects and the state," Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Müllerová told Novinky.cz.

The mantra that we are the best (or doing well) in this area was previously dished up by Müllerová's predecessor Drábek. Of course, that same argument is used by all members of the government, with Czech Finance Minister Kalousek leading the way. It seems to them that 15 % of the population being socially excluded is an acceptable number because the numbers elsewhere are worse, but this buck-passing does not improve the lives of the poor.

Charita (Caritas) Olomouc

News server Novinky.cz goes on to describe several projects involved in helping homeless people or those at risk of losing the roof over their head. For example, a project called "Upward Spiral" (Vzestupná spirála) being run by Charita (Caritas) in Olomouc works with clients to find their way out of the debt spiral. Staffers determine the state of a client's debt, help him in negotiations with creditors, and also compile household budgets or help clients establish their payment priorities.

"There is a greater demand than we can satisfy with this project. The problem of our clients is that they let the situation go too far and don't ask for help until the collections process has already started," said project manager Anna Calábková.

Brno and Romani organizations

The city of Brno has developed an innovative project for integrating members of socially excluded Romani localities. The city decided to bring together its Property Administration Department with the Romani nonprofit organizations IQ Roma servis and the Drom Romani Center. Together they are implementing a project called "Prevention of Indebtedness and Other Support Activities".

The Property Administration Department identifies tenants who are have a problem making regular payments and offers them concrete options for resolving the situation together with social services providers: Requesting a consolidated payment schedule, involving the extended family in rent payment, helping with requests for welfare or with job-seeking. "Thanks to their collaboration with us during the year and a half that this project has existed, we have succeeded in visibly reducing the number of persons falling behind on their rent and the number of tenants whose leases we had to terminate for lack of payment," said Marie Pešáková of the Brno – střed municipality's Property Administration Department.

The Operational Program Human Resources and Employment (Operační program lidské zdroje a zaměstnanost) is contributing to improving the quality of social services and the availability of assistance by supporting projects in the area of social integration. Currently educational institutions, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, regional authorities, and social services providers can request a subsidy from this program as part of tender A7 on education in social services (Vzdělávání v sociálních službách). The deadline is 30 April 2013.

Ostrava

It is just a shame that other towns and villages do not approach the questions of housing and indebtedness like Brno does. Ostrava has just launched its own social inclusion project, but social apartments have only been awarded to four families so far and the town is only planning to house another 50 needed families by the end of this year. Thousands of people are currently waiting for assistance there.

The municipal department of Moravská Ostrava a Přívoz is behaving more than harshly toward its poorest citizens and intends to get them out of its center at any cost. It has almost succeeded with respect to Božkova, Palackého and Přednádraží streets.

One of the main reasons given for moving Romani residents away from these streets is a plan to "cultivate the environment", as the municipal department wrote in a statement sent to news server Romea.cz. According to the Moravská Ostrava a Přívoz leadership, which intends to close a residential hotel in Božkova street, the indebted tenants must find their own housing.

Ostrava does not provide assistance like Brno and the Drom and IQ Roma servis organizations do, but pushes people onto the street. What will they do next? None of the responsible parties in Ostrava takes any interest in that.

Ústí nad Labem

The situation is similar in Ústí nad Labem. The leadership of that town either simply ignores the housing problems of impoverished Romani people and "whites", or "addresses" the problems in a peculiar way.

Recently the town hall evacuated a building in the Předlice quarter, moved the tenants into a residential hotel in the remote quarter of Krásné Březno, and then offered the tenants the addresses of residential hotels located completely outside of Ústí nad Labem. The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion the Konexe association, and the Romani residents themselves protested against this.

Nonprofit organizations helped the residents find apartments, but the town has no program or project in place to support such people. There is the risk that dozens or even hundreds more people will soon be evacuated from the Předlice quarter and will end up on the street from one day to the next.

After a building collapsed in the quarter recently, burying two women (one of whom died), structural engineers have determined there are enormous flaws in as many as 30 other buildings there. What will happen next?

František Kostlán, Novinky.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Bída, Brno, Dotace, Evropa, Exekuce, Exkluze, Granty, Charita, Chudoba, Komunální, Neziskový sektor, Olomouc, Ostrava, Podpora, Projekty, Agentura pro sociální začleňování, Analýzy, Přednádraží, Služby, Sociální, Sociální vyloučení, Stěhování, Ubytování, Ústí nad labem, Vystěhování, Aktivismus, IQ Roma servis, Občanská společnost, občanské sdružení, Předlice, Romové, sociální bydlení, sociální služby, sociální vyloučení, ubytovny, Ústí nad Labem, Czech republic, EU, Housing, integration, MPSV, Předlice, Roma



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