Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Russians’ Opposition to Homeless Shelters Recalls Attitudes in Nazi Germany, Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 14 – Efforts by Russians in several cities to shut down shelters for the homeless or prevent them from being opened reflect a desire to keep them out of sight of the rest of society, leading to actions which recalls those in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Yuliya German, an advocate for the homeless, says.

            Many Russians operate according to the “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY) principle and believe that if there are no shelters for the homeless near them, there will not be any problems. Instead, German says, the reverse will be true: there will be more people on the streets, more illness and  more crime (

            In recent weeks, efforts to close down homeless centers have spread to a number of cities including Samara, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Mariya Petrova of the Spektr news agency says.  The Samara center was opened 22 years ago and is financed by the state. Part of it continues to function even though officials have closed one section after protests.

            In Samara, there are other centers which continue to help the homeless including the one with which Yuliya German is associated.  She says that the closing of even one center will mean that more homeless people will be on the streets, become the victims of aggression, and become ill or forced into criminal activities.

            According to Petrova, “protests by the population against social institutions which help the homeless are not a rarity in Russia.”  Residents of the Savelovsk district in Moscow a year ago blocked the opening of such a shelter there, threatening to burn it down if the authorities allowed it to open.

            Often, as in the case of one St. Petersburg neighborhood, Russians say they are not against such centers – they admit there are many homeless people who need them – but simply don’t want them in their neighborhoods lest the centers themselves attract the homeless from elsewhere.

            Activists have tried to explain that residents against homeless centers do not understand the situation, but in many cases, they have been unable to get Russians to listen let alone to change their attitudes and allow shelters for the homeless to open or even to continue to operate, the Znak journalist says.   

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