Homelessness in St. Petersburg

The following is an article from Arguments and Facts, a well-known national paper here, about some of the ways the homeless live here. It’s worth reprinting in its entirety. I used the Google translation tool, so it’s weak in places, even after some tidying up on my part, but you’ll get the idea. As an aside, my Russian tutor, Ludmilla, introduced me to a friend of hers who runs a government homeless shelter. The lady seemed more than eager to meet me, but when I got there, she wouldn’t even let me see the place, saying I had to write a request that would go through her boss (even though she is in charge). She wouldn’t discuss anything about it with me, saying she wouldn’t know where I came from and how I would use the information. They didn’t even need volunteers, she informed me, saying they have a “different structure” than private shelters. I rarely get offended, but this peeved me pretty bad. I had walked a long way in the snow to get there, and she didn’t have the courtesy to tell me or Ludmilla any of this in advance. Ludmilla was equally upset, if not more, and could only speculate that the shelter was actually making some money on the side by renting rooms to people who would pay market rates. Boy, does this society need Jesus, as you will see more of below.

How the homeless spend their winter
Eugene KOLESNIKOV
Published: January 14, 2009 11:56:46
Article from AiF number 3 of 14 January 2009 11:13:01

The middle of winter. Many homeless won’t make it until spring. Our correspondent found out where and in what conditions the winter in St. Petersburg is like on the street.

Eat Seagulls!

The famous South landfill, near the cemetery for South Pulkovskimi heights. It is
the biggest in Europe. And since Soviet times, it shells and live homeless and any other questionable identity.

I fell into some primitive world. In the landfill rummage bearded men, similar to neanderthals with … bows and arrows. They prey on gulls, which at a dump are likely invisible. They hunt for a gulls picking that pick over garbage. I was accompanied by a police officer familiar with the gun – one appears in such places is dangerous. He says: «This is a very terrible place, but many homeless from around the city want to come here. There’s always food. The homeless build a hut of planks, plywood, felt, make a hole in the debris. Newbie here are not accepted. In the South there is a dump and a rigid hierarchy – even the semblance of taxes for ordinary homeless ». I note that the stench and the smoke in the air makes my head dizzy.

– But there are not only homeless here – continues the officer. – there are vagrants who do not want to work on the basis of some philosophical ideas. Some here even during Soviet times «kosili» from the army, got accustomed to it, and still live here.

Lohmatogo meet local residents. Nikolai, a bit «polomavshis», told us about his life: – Food a lot, and vodka turns up. Moreover – it happens that thousands of U.S. dollars have been found.

His fairly tattered sidekick adds: «A few times we’ve found guns and sniper rifles, maybe killers dumped. We sell them. In general, it’s good here, a lot of food, a lot of debris, so you can burn fires in winter. So that winter, and this time normally ». Asked what the food – a typical tramp meal at South Landfill? A woman with cracked black lips and colored eyes met my eye: «There is always the bread, sausage, bones and meat; I often come across chips, chocolate, in some cases, cans with out of date red caviar. If you want fresh meat – kill seagulls, then you’ll be full »…

«It was a scholarship» …

Village Toksovo. Not far from St. Petersburg. There are elite homes, simpler houses,
and simply shacks (dachas – summer cottages). The latter are where many homeless spend their winters.

Alexander came to St. Petersburg from Tula, a student here at the university. But the rental
housing money he lacks. A dormitory is not provided, since they are rented at higher prices to guest workers, who pay more even for ten people in one. Sasha has to find cover byvarious means. Sometimes sleeps in summer houses in the winter.

– I am certainly awkward about doing this to the owners, but I do not damage their property — said the 20-year-old student. – If my scholarship were normal, the problems would be no such.

Sasha is a unique person could live with their parents in Tula, but preferred to study in St. Petersburg, manage on his own, despite the difficulties. But he, though he does not look it, is a homeless person: a specific place of residence in it does not. When I visited him, Sasha left the electric train and began to search Toksovo for a house to spend the night.

All property – books

Subway «Moscow». Every day there on a bench you can see a high greying tramp. With him a big touring backpack, in which fit all his belongings. And it’s a lot … books. This tramp looks very intelligent, but dressed in rags. He is sitting, reading, standing passengers of the subway station to the has long been accustomed to. Do not touch the old man and the police. We talk to the homeless, who introduced Vladimir. On the street he was still in the middle 1990, his tricked fraudsters from real estate, as so often happened in those times. Then Vladimir was already retired, and worked all his life engineer. He is not asking for charity, goes to social dining. Also in rummages in garbage bins.

In principle, with no special problems with food, but sleep in the winter in the basement is not easy, but cold. Therefore homeless man waiting for the closure of the subway (at the same time, you can read in warm, and read Vladimir loves most in the world).

On this day, he kept a volume of lyrics by Lermontov. «All of my books I know by heart, – said Vladimir. – I have them for several years reread, others I did not buy … »

Where to get help

Bypass. Town not far from the «Warsaw Express». There, on cardboard and even a flaw kuchno wander the most disheveled homeless alcoholic. Many have been in this position after release from prison.

– I got a minor and an adult and was freed without shelter – husky voice tells one of them. – In the deal, what to do and where to go from I was in the trolley-bus was stolen «wolf ticket» (certificate of release. – EK). And so as a passport, I never had, then I get him nowhere. Without a passport every moment requires me fees. And where do I get registered? Only buy a to buy, I need money надыбать. Надыбать бабла nowhere – without documents, no one takes. So that’s zavertelos …

Many of the homeless do not survive until spring. Waif named Sergei says: «Well, the past winter was warmer. Although Кolyan nonetheless gave out … This is my koresh. Yes every winter someone dies, how else?»

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