Sunday, 27 April 2008

Easter food parcels

Easter came, finding us exhausted and too tired to want to do anything. All last week was spent making up food parcels for poor families. We used the rest of the dried and tinned goods from Blythswood Trust and also a donation of tinned soup from a local church and anything else we could think of to make up boxes for families. Between 0900 and 1400 on both Thursday and Friday we had a constant stream of families calling at the "Secret Garden" to see if we had anything for them for Easter. (From 1500 every day Monday to Friday the street people come for their showers, to wash clothes and to relax a little.)

In each box we put rice, pasta, dried beans or lentils, cooking oil and other groceries, plus shampoo, soap and toothpaste and last but not least sweets and a couple of toys for the children. almost 150 families received boxes and in some cases told us that without them they would have had no food at all over Easter. In previous years we have been able to buy eggs for families to dye as is the tradition here and coffee as well as other goodies but with the current financial situation we had to make do with what had been donated. We wished we could have done more but we have to accept that, at the end of the day there's only so much we can do.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

notice of eviction

Yesterday I felt weighed down by the poverty and hopelessness of some people's lives. This derelict house is just round the corner from our "Secret Garden" and has three families still living in it. From what we have been told the house used to belong to the state and has now been sold to a private owner. The residents were given notice to move out but stayed put and today had to appear in court. they were told that they must move out by May 21.

There are several children living here and if they don't find another place they will join the other homeless families on the streets. Even if they find a place it will most likely be in one of the "squatter" communities who live in home made hut type homes on the edges of the city.

The housing situation in Arad as elsewhere in Romania is desperate. There are far more homeless families than homes available. The local authorities have already built some new houses and apartments but the needs are too great. Part of the problem is that a law was passed a few years ago which allowed people to reclaim formerly owned property. This meant that even people who have settled in Germany, Israel or the US, and in many cases received housing there from the respective states could re-claim their properties. Sadly, many re-claimed only to sell for a profit. While I have sympathy for anyone who had their home taken off them, I can't help feeling that if their lives are so much better now in their new countries and they have no intention of returning to Romania that just maybe they might have chosen not to make others homeless.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Food donations gratefully received!

We have been blessed with a couple of donations of food from Blythswood Trust Scotland. It has been wonderful to have basic groceries to give out to the street people and to the many poor families who visit our centre. We regularly help over 100 families with food, toiletries, cleaning products, when we have them and of course shower and clothes washing facilities. Every day the street children and other homeless people come and have showers, wash their clothes (we have rotas!) and eat whatever we manage to offer ... at the moment instant soup and sandwiches.

As Easter approaches we are trying to put together food parcels for families with what remains of the pasta, rice etc from Blythswood and whatever we receive from local people. Unfortunately the foundation has no funds at present (we receive no money specifically for running the centre other than Irina's salary) so we will not be able to buy fresh food for families to add to the parcels but most people are grateful for whatever they receive.

The present lack of funds means that we may have to curtail shower and clothes washing facilities for a while. it's good that Spring has come so the need is not quite so desperate, but nevertheless it will be a blow to many who have been enjoying the facilities.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Fire at the three lids

This area next to the railway lines is home to a small community of people living in huts built around the pipes which carry hot water around the city for the central heating. In Romania during Communist times people didn't have their own centrall heating systems but were connected to a city wide network. This system has advantages and disadvantages to the community in general but a major advantage to the homeless of Romania and other eastern European countries is that it provides them with free heating and even hot water in places where the old pipes leak a little. However, sometimes there are accidents and someone gets badly burned either from leaning against the pipes or by the hot water in places where there are leaks.

This particular community have had their huts all burned down several times during the last few years. A couple of days ago it happened again. As far as we can gather, the cause of the accident was a young child playing with a candle. As the huts are made from wood and other flammable materials the fire spread quickly, leaving the whole community without homes.

There are at present 7 families in this wee community, four with young children. we took some basic groceries, toiletries and what we could manage to put together, as well as socks and underwear but at present we are very low on clothing and have no blankets, sleeping bags or duvets left. Fortunately the weather is getting warmer and until next winter the need isn't so great.

There are several small communities like the "three lids" and their future prospects are not good. Many of them have moved to Arad from other counties and so their ID cards are based elsewhere which means that the Arad local authorities are not obliged to help them, the responsibility lies with their home county. Also, those working within the local authorities feel that they have more than enough homeless or almost homeless people of their own to try to help without having to stretch the already stretched services even further.

As a small charity working here in Arad with the poor and homeless we obviously would like to help families such as these and have requested a piece of land from the council on which to build 6 very small but adequate houses. As yet we don't have the land, neither do we have the funding, we don't even know how we would go about choosing which families receive a house but it is nevertheless a project close to our hearts.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

a home of sorts

The poorest families in Arad live in all kinds of places. I've no idea why this concrete hut on the edge of a disused railway line was originally built but an enterprising family found it empty and moved in. Of course such families have no running water in their homes or access to sanitation but they are glad to have a place, any place that they can call home.

Their neighbours, further along the railway line, live in this hut built from a mixture of materials with their 6 children. In winter its a pretty dismal place but the parents say they are grateful to God for providing them with even this most basic of homes. It makes our western affluent lives seem sinful.