Homeless are part of our reality and they need help of state and society

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) calls upon relevant institutions to urgently find a sustainable solution for accommodation for homeless people from Podgorica, and Montenegro in general, given the extremely inhumane conditions in which, under the open sky or in abandoned public spaces, they are exposed to effects of a harsh winter without heating and adequate nutrition.

Homelessness is difficult in all its aspects. And when linked with extreme weather conditions, prevailing social insensitivity and lack of responsibility of the relevant institutions, it gets its harshest dimension embodied in the story, that we could see these days in the media – about two homeless people, who are at the heart of Podgorica, in an underground toilet, left to freeze and quietly starve to death. We should not live in illusion that they are the only ones who are spending an unprecedented winter on the streets, and it should be emphasized that in Montenegro there is no statistics on homeless, nor a practical reflection of any systematic effort to assist this vulnerable group in spite of existence of money that the relevant institutions are often spending inappropriately. It is very disappointing for all of us as citizens to avert our view away from suffering of the people around us, a view often colored with prejudice and misunderstanding of the problem of homelessness.

Solving problems that the homeless are facing must be an integral part of the Government of Montenegro social policy. Montenegro obliged itself to it also by the European Social Charter, whose Article 31 stipulates that the contracting parties are working to prevent and reduce homelessness in order to gradually eliminate it. Homelessness should be eradicated because the right to housing is a basic human right, which is the basis of enjoyment of all other rights.

Reluctance of state to take responsibility for addressing homelessness, prevention and reduction of this phenomenon undermines the capacity of social solidarity and recognition of homelessness as a problem that concerns all citizens. Solving the problem should be accompanied by greater public support underpinned by understanding of the phenomenon that is not result of one’s free choice, but rather a consequence of circumstances that can befall even some who are now looking from high-altitude down to this problem.

With this announcement, CCE joins appeals of colleagues from the Food Bank and the Human Rights Action (HRA), non-governmental organizations that are for years dealing with this issue by providing practical assistance and support to the homeless, informing the public about cases of homelessness and the situation in which they live, but also advocating for establishing a permanent services of help by providing accommodation and care for these persons, which is clearly not reaching the relevant institutions.

CCE calls upon all citizens to be solidary and whenever they are in a position to help the homeless whom they recognize in their environment, at least by informing the relevant institutions to come out to the field and provide assistance. Each benevolent and humane gesture is important, as it can at least alleviate some of the many challenges that the homeless face daily living completely marginalized and excluded due to extreme poverty.

Petar Đukanović, programme coordinator