Staunton, June 21 – Because of the pandemic and economic crisis, the number of homeless Russians has risen to approximately eight million. Most don’t have jobs and an increasing number are now engaged in begging especially in large cities where they sometimes “earn” more in a day than the average Russian does in a month.
Those are just some of the disturbing findings Znak journalists Igor Pushkaryov and Nikita Telizhenko report on the basis of a survey of the new generation of beggars and of Russian experts on this neglected part of the Russian community (znak.com/2021-06-22/kak_ustroen_mir_poproshaek_v_rossii_territorii_kommunikacii_dohody_ierarhiya_reportazh).
Beggars and charity toward them have long been a part of Russian life. Because of that, those beggars who manage to get to the big cities like Moscow often make a remarkable living with some taking in enormous sums, particularly when they organize groups of beggars who give part of their take to the organizer.
Some beggars now allow Russians to contribute to them with bank cards and then go to ATMs to get the money. Others rely on direct cash transactions, but almost all find themselves in terrible difficulties when the weather gets cold or because they spend their money on alcohol and drugs.
The government’s social safety net doesn’t catch them. Instead, for many Russians, it has more holes than net; and while the police and other officials are generally tolerant, this arm of officialdom sees beggars less as a group to be helped than as a source of information about what other Russians are doing, the two journalists report.
There are a few NGOs involved – on them, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/06/moscows-homeless-population-swells-in.html – but they reach only a small proportion of the beggars, both because of official restrictions on the NGOs and NIMBY attitudes and the attitudes of the beggars themselves.
As a result, this lumpen underclass is likely to continue to grow unless and until a more concerted effort is made not just to get these people out of sight by pushing them around but by creating structures that will provide them with jobs and housing so that the current situation isn’t repeated again in the next generation.