Homeless facing harder winter during pandemic

COVID restrictions, lockdowns making things more difficult for people living on the streets, say aid groups.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: TASR)

Slovakia’s homeless are facing a more difficult winter than usual as the coronavirus crisis continues, NGOs helping them have warned.

Existing COVID measures have already brought extra hardship for people living on the streets this year - quarantines and lockdowns have meant fewer donations from passers-by, and services provided by organisations helping them have been limited, leaving some struggling to get money for shelter or food.

Homeless people have also been among the most vulnerable groups in the pandemic, struggling to self-isolate if they fear they are infected with the coronavirus, while their often already weakened health has left them particularly at risk from COVID.

Now, with current restrictions about to be tightened as a three-week lockdown comes into force on December 21, aid groups working with the homeless say they fear this winter will be harder than usual for many people without a home.

“Many of them are in advanced age and many suffer of various respiratory diseases,” Zuzana Kuľhová, a fundraiser at Depaul Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator.

“The winter itself is a very difficult time for them [in any year]. This winter is going to be even harder, if only because there is a serious respiratory disease going around.”

More homeless

While no exact data on the number of homeless people in Slovakia exists, the Statistics Office estimates there are roughly 23,000 across the country, with 4,000 in Bratislava alone.

Data from groups like Depaul suggests numbers have risen in recent years.

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