The London Housing Foundation is proud to support the work of Depaul International in Ukraine. We asked the team there to tell us about some of the things they have been doing with LHF support.
Although it might not be in the news as much as previously, the conflict in the east of the country is still on-going. Many people have had to leave their homes to find safety in other parts of Ukraine and by May 2016, 1.7 million people had been registered as displaced. Many of them experience poverty and are at risk of homelessness – they are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and turn to Depaul Ukraine for support.
Our Outreach Services provided humanitarian aid to 7,321 people in 2017. In total, we handed out more than 153,000 hot meals to the homeless in Kharkiv, Odessa and Kyiv and helped them with clothes, medical first aid and social assistance. Our Outreach Services also brought humanitarian aid to people in temporary accommodation camps along with much needed psychological support services.
In 2016, the LHF grant assisted us to open winter shelters in Kharkiv and Kyiv as well as a women’s shelter in Odessa. Our biggest shelter in Kyiv accommodated around 75 people each night and our shelter in Kharkiv (the first direct access shelter for the homeless in the city) provided a safe space for about 30 people each night. In Odessa, we started to run the first shelter specifically tailored to support vulnerable, homeless women. Within their first three months of operation, these projects provided a warm place to rest at night for 490 people. In 2017 we continued to run shelters in Kharkiv and Kyiv and in 2018 we hope to further expand the range of services clients can access through them.
The grant also supported the expansion of our important work with homeless patients in hospitals. Before Depaul got involved, many hospitals refused treating homeless patients – effectively leaving them dying in the streets with no hope for help. After several years of intensive work, we have now built positive relationships with a range of hospitals. Staff have started to tell us when a homeless patient arrives and they allow them to stay until they have fully recovered. In the meantime, we help them access state benefits and receive referrals to state-run care homes or hostels.
Depaul social workers met Misha, who had fled the violence in Luhansk and found himself homeless on the streets of Kharkiv. He told us: ‘Everything I earned in my life the war has taken from me… I buried my 24 year old son, I buried my wife. And now I am homeless. Life has turned away from me. Maybe I am guilty before God. It’s hard to say.’ The hopelessness of Misha’s words are a reminder of why Depaul Ukraine’s work supported by the LHF is so important. People who sometimes have lost everything turn to us for a helping hand, for a hot meal, warm clothes and shelter.
Our team met Valery last winter. He was homeless on the streets of Odessa in the freezing conditions and had severe frostbite on both feet. There remains significant stigma about homelessness in Ukraine and three ambulances had refused to take him to hospital. Unbelievably, one had even injected him with water when he asked for some pain relief. But Depaul staff were able to organise an ambulance, and then facilitate treatment at one of our partner hospitals. Unfortunately, we were unable to save Valery’s feet, which both had to be amputated. But Depaul’s intervention managed to secure him vital medical care and a place on a ward: without this, we do not know what might have happened to Valery.
Over the next few weeks we will publish more blogs from Depaul staff and clients. If you have a story about homelessness or would like to suggest a project that needs funding, please go to our grants page.