Ivan is a 63-year old man from Makeyevka in the Donetsk region of Ukraine who has worked all his life in a mine. When the conflict began, he decided to move to Odessa as he knew he had relatives there. But when he arrived, he quickly realised that no one was left anymore. With no savings or regular income he found himself sleeping rough on the streets. Despite the harsh environment, Ivan never drank any alcohol or used drugs – a fact, he later said, saved his life on the streets.
Ivan heard from other homeless people about Depaul Ukraine and one day he came to one of our Outreach stops as he was starving. We listened to his story and knew that Ivan was in desperate need of a helping hand. We had just opened our new accommodation project in Odessa and offered him a bed and comprehensive support – if he wanted it. He did. But it didn’t stop there.
After assessing his needs, the team helped Ivan to reconnect with his estranged wife who by now lived in Italy, and his son. Additionally, our lawyers started the process of restoring his documents – a major challenge as Ivan had been imprisoned during the collapse of the Soviet Union which means that his citizenship is unclear. This issue is likely to take several months to resolve but both the team and Ivan are confident that it will happen.
Being in stable accommodation and receiving social support has also helped Ivan to find a part-time job. He is so happy about it and his cheerfulness is truly contagious! The entire team of Depaul Ukraine is sure that Ivan will soon be able to leave homelessness behind and start his new life in Odessa.
Ivans story shows how important it is to have access to the right kind of services. Depaul International and Depaul Ukraine work to make these services available to those who have no other place to turn to and ensure that even the most marginalised in Ukrainian society are able to move away from the streets and towards a more positive future.
The London Housing Foundation continues to help homeless people in Ukraine by supporting Depaul International and Depaul Ukraine in their efforts to bring humanitarian aid to those that need it most. Aid is distributed across three cities – Kharkiv, Odessa and Kyiv. This includes providing meals and first aid through outreach vans, a place of safety overnight in our shelters, facilitating hospital treatment for those with serious conditions; and restoring documents through our legal service.
Recently, the team of Depaul Ukraine changed its focus in certain areas to better address the needs of its clients. This resulted in the opening of two new accommodation projects over the past year. One is a long-term supported accommodation centre in Odessa for people like Ivan that have been internally displaced by the on-going conflict in the East of the country. The other is a new emergency shelter in Kharkiv, which is being refurbished this summer and will hopefully be fully functional by the time the freezing winter temperatures hit the country.
These new projects improve upon the service Depaul Ukraine previously offered – the team is now able to provide more intensive support to those that come seeking help. The benefits of this approach are shown by the steps made by our clients towards independent living. Of the ten men who already slept in our Kharkiv shelter over winter, six found work and two secured a pension.
Or as Mark McGreevy, Group Chief Executive of Depaul, puts it: “The support of the London Housing Foundation means that we can give homeless people in Ukraine a warm meal, that we can tend to their wounds, that we can make sure they have access to hot showers and a place to sleep. But most importantly, it means that people survive; it means that people have a future.”