Additional efforts needed to care for the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic
Homeless people are one of the most vulnerable groups in the society at all times and particularly during the pandemic. They have a weak immune system, generally do not have a primary care physician or access to information via TV or mobile phone, and because of their extremely poor financial status and living conditions, they are unable to maintain basic hygiene or follow the recommended preventive measures.
Following the information that a large number of homeless people are still staying in public places and non-residential buildings after the epidemic was proclaimed, Ombudswoman Lora Vidović requested further information from the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy, particularly whether additional provisional housing, possibly in heated tents or housing containers, are being planned or already organised. The same inquiry was sent to the City of Zagreb and the Red Cross, following the recent strong earthquake. In addition, she requested the Ministry of the Interior to inform her about the manner in which it implements the Decision on the measures of strict restraint of staying on the streets and other public places, as well as the manner in which police officers inform the homeless people about all measures, additional accommodation and other forms of care available to them during the pandemic.
Living in the open or in earthquake-damaged buildings or public places cannot not provide sufficient protection from COVID-19 for the homeless, nor it makes it possible to control the spread of the pandemic among them, which can also reflect on their overall health situation. It is therefore necessary to make additional efforts to take care of this extremely vulnerable group of people. According to the available information, Plan for the accommodation of the homeless people and Plan for the accommodation of the homeless people in extreme winter conditions for 2019/2020 are used during the COVID-19 pandemic, homeless people without the adequate housing or living space during the day are allowed to eat in the soup kitchens, respecting Croatian Institute for Public Health measures, and they can use the services of examination checkpoints organised in local health centres. Also, in cooperation with the Red Cross City Society, the City of Zagreb provided additional capacities for up to 40 persons at the Kosnica Shelter.
Data on the number of homeless people in Croatia vary, but the Croatian Homeless Network estimates that there are about 2 thousand persons without any roof over their heads, and estimations according to the ETHOS typology, which includes those who have unsafe or inadequate housing, show that this number grows up to 10 thousand.