Last month, after visiting Moscow for the first time, I published an account of what I saw and experienced there.
In my account, one of the subjects on which I commented was the extent of visible homelessness in central Moscow. I wrote that:
It is always a challenge to estimate the level of homelessness in a society, especially when one relies principally upon one’s personal observations in the street. Many homeless persons might not be apparent to a casual observer. Also, local authorities might have taken steps to conceal the level of homelessness by, for example, confining the homeless to districts that are rarely visited by outsiders. It is therefore possible that Moscow suffers from a far higher rate of homelessness than was apparent to me.
All I can say is that, based on the criteria I normally apply in Western societies when I try to gauge the level of homelessness in a city, the number of homeless persons whom I encountered while walking the streets of central Moscow was far below what I am accustomed to seeing in Canadian and other Western cities. In ten days, during which time I walked well over 120 kilometres in central Moscow, I saw, at most, five persons who appeared to me to be homeless. Typically, when I walk for just thirty minutes in the central areas of Toronto and Montreal, I see far more homeless persons than I saw in Moscow over a ten-day period.
Prior to visiting Russia in April of this year, I served for eight years as a board member for the Unity Project for the Relief of Homelessness in London, an NGO-operated homeless shelter in London, Canada.
One of the many lessons I drew from my experiences as a Unity Project board member is that homelessness is a feature, not a bug, of capitalist systems.
Another important lesson was that many homeless persons are invisible to ordinary citizens, and that the problem of homelessness tends to be far more pervasive than a superficial inquiry might reveal.
With those lessons in mind, I decided to delve deeper into the problem of homelessness in Russia.
To that end, I visited the Nochlezhka homeless shelter in Moscow. Nochlezhka describes itself as Russia’s oldest charity providing assistance to homeless people.
I was given a tour of the shelter by Dasha Amosova, Nochlezhka’s PR specialist. At the conclusion of the tour, Dasha kindly agreed to be interviewed. The video of her interview can be viewed below. I also have posted below some of the photographs I took during my tour of the shelter.