Homeless to help with baggage

SEVEN people dressed in blue uniforms, wearing white gloves and flat caps are helping passengers at the Main Railway Station in Bratislava with their baggage. No, this is not a snapshot from some old newspaper, but an image from the present as seven homeless people who also sell the Nota Bene magazine are now working at the station three times a week from 9:00 to 13:00 as part of a project run by the Proti Prúdu (Against the Stream) civic association.

Homeless people can help railway passengers.Homeless people can help railway passengers. (Source: SME)

SEVEN people dressed in blue uniforms, wearing white gloves and flat caps are helping passengers at the Main Railway Station in Bratislava with their baggage. No, this is not a snapshot from some old newspaper, but an image from the present as seven homeless people who also sell the Nota Bene magazine are now working at the station three times a week from 9:00 to 13:00 as part of a project run by the Proti Prúdu (Against the Stream) civic association.

The main aim is to not only create jobs and help passengers with heavy luggage, but also to help the seven workers to pay off their debts.

“Our project is unique because homeless people are traditionally those who need help,” Sandra Tordová, head of the Proti Prúdu civic association, told the TASR newswire before launching the project. “The situation will now change. Selected sellers will now be those who will help others.”

Initially, the homeless people will help with the baggage during less crowded station hours. They will approach people, explain to them who they are, what they are doing and deal with the possible refusal or solve any possible problems, Tordová told the press. In case of need, there will be also social workers to help. After some time, they will be also working during peak travel hours.

The service is free for passengers; carriers will receive the money from the civic association. The idea to employ homeless people at the railway station was proposed by one reader of Nota Bene magazine who complained about carrying heavy baggage up and down the steps, since the station lacks an elevator.

“It impressed us as we realised that the job of carrier will solve two problems,” Tordová said, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “Passengers will get necessary help and people in need will get a job.”

The state-run Železnice SR (ŽSR) railway company, which owns the railway station building, welcomed the project.

“We view it as a meaningful project as on one hand it helps homeless people, and the passengers on the other,” Dana Šinková from the press department of ŽSR told The Slovak Spectator.

She added that during the first day the service was launched, they recorded positive responses. Media outlets interviewing passengers also got positive feedback.

Removing the debts

Another aspect of the project is that it aims to help the homeless people pay off debts. If the carriers save some money from the wage at the end of the month, Proti Prúdu will match the savings up to €100.

According to the association, debt is the biggest barrier of homeless people seeking a job. Nearly every person without a home has debt, especially on health insurance, with the highest reaching €5,000, TASR wrote.

Even if such a person gets a job and starts earning money, he or she will soon face distrainment proceedings that can result in a loss in motivation and subsequent departure from work, Peter Kadlečík, the coordinator of the project explained, as reported by SITA.

“Therefore we come with the idea that it is important to solve these debts and that homeless people need support in this,” he said.

If the project is successful and the association gets enough money, it plans to expand it and offer three carriers a part-time job. This would also mean they would offer the service daily, TASR wrote.

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