Czech Republic: Romani tenants removed from dangerous building to gym
Occupants of a dangerous building in the Předlice quarter of Ústí nad Labem have ended up in a primary school gym. They left the building two weeks after being instructed to move out, at the insistence of a crisis team. The residential hotel into which they were originally to have moved does not meet their needs. They can remain in the gym until they find other housing.
Last Friday the 36 residents of the building, 27 of whom are children, were scheduled to move into a residential hotel, but it turned out to be inappropriate. "Substitute accommodation has therefore been set up for them in the gym of the primary school in Předlice," the Ústí nad Labem town hall stated on its website. The town hall provided the people with a moving van, storage space, and a container for throwing away unnecessary items. "The Labor Office has promised to contribute first and last month's rents for their new housing, and social workers are helping the families attend to filling out the necessary documents and contacting landlords of other residential hotels and apartment units," the town's statement reads.
Town reportedly has apartments available
"People in Need, in collaboration with our social affairs department, is doing its best to arrange permanent housing for the tenants with private owners," said town spokesperson Romana Macová, adding that the evicted residents can stay in the school until they conclude leases elsewhere. "The school has set aside the gym and is running without any problems. The residents even have their own entrance to the gym," she said.
"I see this as an ambivalent situation," Martin Šimáček, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, told news server Romea.cz. "On the one hand, it's not good they are being accommodated in the gym, but on the other hand, I can't evaluate the degree of risk they would be exposed to by remaining in that building. I don't even know to what extent the owner of that building is taking the need to reconstruct it seriously. When it was proposed that they might be moved into a residential hotel, that seemed like the safer solution for these people. If the gym is just a temporary solution, then a permanent one might develop out of it."
Míra Brož of the Konexe association in Ústí nad Labem, which has been assisting Romani people there all along, has a different opinion. "The humanitarian situation has led to these people ending up in the gym, but there are enough apartments available in Ústí to rehouse them immediately. The town hall even has social apartments available, but since those are nice facilities, it's unthinkable to them that they would move the poor Romani families there," Brož told news server Romea.cz.
According to Brož, there are buildings in Předlice that are in even worse shape than the building the Romani tenants just had to leave. "No one is addressing the state of these buildings and no one is taking any interest in the people who live there," Brož said.
Residents: "This is the result of bad privatization"
Residents of the quarter sent an open letter to the town hall at the start of October complaining that the town is not communicating with them about the situation and claiming that poorly executed privatizations are to blame for the situation. "The situation in our quarter is the result of bad privatization and years of inaction on the part of the town. Today's crisis did not happen from one day to the next," the residents wrote.
Attorney Klára Samková, who has long taken an interest in Romani issues, shares that opinion. "Despite my warnings, the town sold that real estate to loan sharks who did not respect rent regulations and who have not fulfilled their responsibilities as real estate owners for many years," Samková insists.
Klement Bruncík, the owner of the building from which the tenants finally moved after repeated calls to do so, recently started repairs on the structure. However, according to town hall instructions, he should have waited until the building was completely unoccupied. Since he did not respect those instructions, the Building Works Authority called on him to halt the work and has filed criminal charges against him.
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