by Dimitris Loukas
Citizens in the heart of the capital are faced with a depressing sight. The image of two homeless people, a father and son, whose story is well known among the locals, sleeping on the streets of Makarios Ave.
"The two people aren't causing any problems, and everyone in the neighborhood is trying to help them, but the situation has gotten out of hand."
24news went to the location where the tragic conditions were discovered. The heartbreaking image is made up of blankets on the ground, pillows, and other objects. Shopkeepers and residents in the area told our website that the majority of them are assisting the two people by providing them with food, among other things.
They did, however, point out that despite ongoing efforts by the relevant agencies to find shelter for the two people, they stubbornly refuse, preferring to live under the circumstances. In fact, an employee of a Makarios shelter observed that the two homeless people occasionally verbally assault citizens when they do not offer them money or whatever else they request.
In a conversation with a café employee, she stated, "the two persons are not causing problems, everyone in the area is trying to help them but the situation has gone too far," and she went on to clarify that some people believe these individuals are taking advantage of the kindness of those who help them.*Sheets and blankets on a sidewalk in the area of Makarios.
How the Nicosia Municipality is responding with the help of the Multipurpose Municipal Centre
24news contacted a competent official of the Nicosia Municipality and the Multipurpose Municipal Centre for comment on the matter.
Marios Argyrou, the program officer at the Nicosia Multipurpose Municipal Centre, stated that they have known these homeless people for quite some time.
"Residents were calling the service asking for help for these people," Mr. Argyrou noted.
According to Mr. Argyrou, an officer from the Multipurpose Centre visits the site regularly to try to convince the homeless duo to get off the streets and live in a shelter. However, it was pointed out to us that it is not the Multipurpose Municipal Centre's responsibility to provide housing.
The program officer of the Multipurpose Centre explained to us what they do as a service for the homeless.
"Social workers from the Multipurpose Center visit homeless individuals located on the street. The process is then triggered by Social Welfare Services, meaning after the individuals are registered, the police are notified to verify the information, and then the Social Welfare Service is informed "Mr. Argyrou stated.*Photo from their "shelter".
Finally, Mr. Argyrou stated, "We provide person-centered support and empowerment. We try to help homeless people by providing other services such as partners, shelter, hygiene items, clothing, and so on."
What Social Welfare Services' did in this case
24news spoke with a representative of the Social Welfare Services, who explained the procedure for homeless cases.
When asked what actions the service is taking to address the issue of homelessness, he stated, "The Social Welfare Services, as soon as they are informed or identify people who are facing housing problems, take action for immediate assistance and support within their own competences, because the Ministry of Interior is responsible for the state's broader housing policy."*Photo by Fidias Moiseos.
Furthermore, the representative stated that, in addition to direct intervention on housing issues, substantial support is provided to reintegrate individuals into the fabric of society in the following ways:
Preparation of an individualized support and counseling program, as well as liaison with other governmental or non-governmental services and community resources (e.g. Mental Health Services, Municipalities, SSE, Public Employment Services, etc.).
However, "in cases where no permanent housing is can be found, Social Welfare Services will arrange for their temporary accommodation until all the facts are investigated and action is taken to find permanent housing," he explained, adding, "Further, they are instructed to apply for Minimum Guaranteed Income to the Welfare Benefits Management Service."
When we asked what happens when people refuse to accept housing and seek shelter on the streets, we were told that "in the event of an individual's refusal to cooperate and resolve the housing issue, efforts continue to work with the individual and resolve housing and/or other issues they may be facing."
Concerning the two homeless people on Makarios, the department stated, "This particular case is being handled by the Social Services Department in collaboration with the Police and other relevant agencies," adding, "More specific reports on the case cannot be made due to the sensitive personal data involved."
[This article was translated from its Greek original]