In Human Rights, International

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.



Entrance to the Nochlezhka homeless shelter in Moscow


Nochlezhka shelter’s mobile homeless assistance unit


Reading room for residents of the Nochlezhka homeless shelter in Moscow


The Nochlezhka shelter’s resident cat

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Showing 6 comments
  • Dianne Varga

    “Homelessness is a feature, not a bug, of capitalist systems.”

    Yes, progressive economist Ricardo Tranjan similarly notes that there is no housing “crisis,” per se. There’s nothing broken about the housing market. It’s working exactly as intended, it’s meant to extract as much profit as possible, and it’s doing a very good job of that through governmental policy choices and deregulation.

    Tranjan’s new book, The Tenant Class, will be landing soon in bookstores and public libraries.

  • Marie Welton

    Dimitri I can’t put into words what a “blessing” it is to listen and see the range of experiences you have had with people and places during your time in Russia. And I say to myself ” Yes, yes !” What I am seeing and hearing is so in keeping with what I am hearing from my family in St Petersburg .
    My many many visits to Russia over the past 30 years has primarily been in and around St Petersburg ( population of about 6 million people ) and while my daughter has explained the significant differences between Moscow and St Petersburg I see and feel the similarities of peoples thoughts and feelings in what you have shared . Now I tell people to go to and then we can talk.

  • Ali Tchanguizi

    Thank you, very good report of a common problem of countries dominated by the capitalist system.

  • Joseph

    Fascinating interview. Thanks for sharing.

  • Daniel Gallant

    great work! the world needs more of this people like you who can bring to light what is completely natural is that no matter where you go people are all the same , helping one another and giving love where needed . Just proves that only the leaders are so corrupt and detached from normal life reality .

  • Youri Smouter

    Dimitri thank you soo much for all you do, I often say you are a compassionate gentleman. Been reading/watching/listening all your dispatches, interviews, and yourself being interviewed and so fourth from Russia and its been a true delight and incredible insight into the country. Gotta have you back on one plus one to discuss the trip but just want to type a job well done, so much more I could say about each post but for now, keep up the great work and really hope more people like you in our people power movement make an effort to go to russia and seek out all Russian voices, your trip and dispatches and more has been a gift to us. keep up the great work

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