World Homeless Day observed in Rijeka

The Croatian Homeless Network on Tuesday organised an event in Rijeka on the occasion of World Homeless Day to raise awareness of the problem of homelessness as one affecting not only individuals but society as a whole.

Some 50 members of the Homeless Network sat on the ground in the city centre to show symbolically that there are citizens who have nowhere to stay.

World Homeless Day is observed globally, and the northern Croatian Adriatic city will today and tomorrow host the 17th national gathering of homeless people, which has brought together all members of the national network for the homeless.

The president of the national network and of the Oaza association, Dejan Travica, said that according to official statistics, there are 420 homeless people in Croatia, adding that this number refers only to homeless persons staying in shelters.

Estimate: 2,000 homeless staying in the street

“We estimate that there are around 2,000 homeless persons who literally live in the street, and we think that around 10,000 people are at great risk of homelessness and live in inadequate and inappropriate conditions,” Travica said.

Speaking of the risk of homelessness, he said that many people, if they do not receive one or two wages and therefore cannot afford rent, can quickly end up in the street.

There are beautiful and successful stories, when people from shelters manage to solve their problems and become independent, but there are also cases of slipping back to homelessness, when people return to shelters, he said.

There are 14 shelters for homeless people in Croatia and they are mostly always filled to capacity so there is a need for additional accommodation space, he said.

Housing policy, plan against poverty and homelessness necessary

“We want to make the authorities think more about the housing policy, about how to secure adequate housing for citizens, to adopt a national plan to combat poverty and homelessness, a national plan for social housing and for legal regulations to be changed to be more to the benefit of homeless persons,” Travica said.

He noted that around three in four homeless persons are men and they often have problems with residence, which is necessary to obtain personal documents. There are two shelters in Rijeka, each with 14 places, and a housing community for homeless women, with five places.

The head of the “Rue sv. Franje” homeless shelter, Pjer Orlic, said that the shelter had been active for 16 years and was almost always full, with around 700 people from Primorje-Gorski Kotar County having passed through it over the years.