Housing for homeless during Covid 19

“Housing, the front line defence against the COVID-19 outbreak,” says Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing. GENEVA (18 March 2020) – As Governments worldwide are relying on people to stay home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, they must take urgent measures to prevent anyone falling into homelessness and ensure access to adequate housing for those without, a UN expert said. “Housing has become the front line defence against the coronavirus. Home has rarely been more of a life or death situation,” said Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing. “I am deeply concerned about two specific population groups: those living in emergency shelters, homelessness, and informal settlements, and those facing job loss and economic hardship which could result in mortgage and rental arrears and evictions.” According to the expert, approximately 1.8 billion people worldwide live in homelessness and grossly inadequate housing, often in overcrowded conditions, lacking access to water and sanitation – making them particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus, as they are often suffering from multiple health issues. “I am urging States to take extraordinary measures to secure the right to housing for all to protect against the pandemic. Good practices are emerging in a few States, including: moratoriums on evictions due to rental and mortgage arrears; deferrals of mortgage payments for those affected by the virus; extension of winter moratoriums on forced evictions of informal settlements; and increased access to sanitation and emergency shelter spaces for homeless people,” Farha said. While significant, further measures are required to curb the risk for these vulnerable groups and address the growing infection rates, the Special Rapporteur said. At a minimum, to ensure protection of those living in homelessness or grossly inadequate housing, States must: cease all evictions; provide emergency housing with services for those who are affected by the virus and must isolate; ensure that the enforcement of containment measures (eg: curfews) does not lead to the punishment of anyone based on their housing status; provide equal access to testing and health care; and provide adequate housing which may require the implementation of extraordinary measures as appropriate in a state of emergency, including using vacant and abandoned units and available short-term rentals. With respect to those facing job loss and economic hardship, States must: provide direct financial assistance for or defer rental and mortgage payments; enact a moratorium on evictions due to arrears; introduce rental stabilization or reduction measures; and, at least for the duration of the pandemic, suspend utility costs and surcharges. “Measures are being introduced and significant resources allocated to mitigate against the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, such as lowering interest rates. There is a risk that such measures will enable global financial actors to use the pandemic and the misfortunes of many to dominate housing markets without regard for human rights standards, as they did in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis,” the Special Rapporteur said. “States must prevent the predatory practices of institutional investors in the area of residential real estate. “By ensuring access to secure housing with adequate sanitation, States will not only protect the lives of those who are homeless or living in informal settlements but will help protect the entire world’s population by flattening the curve of CV19,” the UN expert concluded. ENDS Ms Leilani Farha is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She took up her mandate in June 2014. Farha is the Executive Director of the NGO Canada without Poverty, based in Ottawa. A lawyer by training, for the past 20 years Ms. Farha has worked both internationally and domestically on the implementation of the right to adequate housing for the most marginalized groups and on the situation of people living in poverty. Her most recent report to the Human Rights Council focusses on access to justice for the right to housing. The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity. Follow the Special Rapporteur’s work on Twitter: @adequatehousing For more information and media requests please contact: Gunnar Theissen (during the visit at: +41-79 444 4078 / gtheissen@ohchr.org; after the visit at: +41 22 917 9321) or write tosrhousing@ohchr.org For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9445 / xcelaya@ohchr.org) Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter@UN_SPExperts. Concerned about the world we live in? Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today. #Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org

𝐔𝐏𝐃𝐀𝐓𝐄 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐁𝐄𝐑𝐋𝐈𝐍, 𝐆𝐄𝐑𝐌𝐀𝐍𝐘, 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐌𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐢𝐥 𝐊𝐡𝐨𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐃𝐔𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬
To date, the German health system is doing a pretty good job of coping with the epidemic. With approximately the same number of cases as in France, Spain, and Italy, in Germany mortality is an order of magnitude lower. This once again suggests that the health system is working well here. She is truly socially oriented. Migrants, unemployed, old people, children, people with disabilities - almost all have health insurance.
What preventive measures were introduced in Berlin? First of all, those places where people can gather, but which are not of vital importance, were closed. This included, for example, restaurants, large shopping centers, clothing stores, etc.
There are no strict quarantine measures. People are not forbidden to leave the house. People can walk in the parks. They can go out. The only thing called for is to observe security measures.
Hospitals switched mainly to working with patients with coronavirus. That treatment of people that can wait is postponed until better times. Unfortunately, drug treatment has also been included in the list of medical services that can be postponed. For example, treatment of acute withdrawal symptoms or a reduction in the dosage of substitution therapy, which was previously supposed to be carried out in a hospital setting, is now being postponed. The option is being offered to do this gradually at home.
Praxis is a small clinic where patients are treated for HIV infection, receive hepatitis treatment, and are given replacement therapy. They also began to change the work schedule, and definitely for the better. Now they are trying to give out an opioid replacement therapy drug for a greater number of days. If before a person received enough drugs for one week, they are now being given enough for two weeks.
The community of people who use drugs has a small but significant number of people who live on the street and who do not have an apartment and/or permanent residence. The epidemic affected them very seriously. At the very beginning of quarantine they faced a very difficult situation. The shelters in which they spend the night are open until 6-7 in the morning, and then they are sent back onto the street. All rooms where they could rest are closed at this time. All spaces, for example cafes or shopping centers, where homeless people could rest are closed at this time.
Then, fortunately, the Senate of Berlin bought a hotel with 250 rooms. As a result, many people from the community found refuge there. Those staying in the hotel receive one room for four people, with a shower, equipped with a toilet inside, and three meals a day. It was expected that two more such places for 200-300 people would open, but so far this has not happened, and many people still live on the street.
Service organisations that deal with harm reduction programs, such as Fixpunkt, have switched to a five-day work schedule. Before this, mobile points worked three days a week. Thus, all services are provided.
The drug scene has not changed significantly. Dealers are still trading. Prices have not risen. The only difference is that the authorities have begun to pay more attention to ensuring that people do not gather in the subway, because, as in many large cities, dealers are often tied to the subway and metro stations.

More info on COVID-19 and harm reduction:
If you have updates from your city about COVID-19 and harm reduction, please send it to us at rightsreporter@rightsreporter.net!
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BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐲𝐨𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐁𝐮𝐝𝐚𝐩𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐃𝐞𝐟𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐅𝐞𝐚𝐫-𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐛𝐲 𝐇𝐨𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐇𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐏𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐇𝐚𝐥𝐥

After the ruling Fidesz party launched a smear campaign against opening a new homeless shelter in the Csepel neighbourhood of Budapest, the mayor decided to allow the homeless to stay at City Hall. Now Fidesz is attacking him for this action, claiming that it is part of a conspiracy by George Soros against Hungary.

In many European cities we can see generous measures implemented by city leaders to expand shelters for homeless people, who are one of the most vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 epidemic.

When the Mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony (from the opposition Párbeszéd party) initiated plans to create a new shelter in the 21st district, Csepel, to ease overcrowding, the local district mayor (who belongs to the ruling party) launched a campaign against the plan. He installed posters on the streets, calling people to sign an online petition to protest against opening a homeless shelter in their neighbourhood. The pro-government press is mocking Mr. Karácsony by claiming that he “punishes Csepel by sending the homeless” there.

The Mayor of Budapest had to give up the plan to open the new shelter in Csepel and decided to instead host homeless people at City Hall. The building the mayor has opened for homeless people is currently being renovated. In the future it will house the Budapest Gallery, but for now it will shelter 500 homeless people. “It is not acceptable for us to reject those who are in the most difficult situation,” said Mr. Karácsony. “We could use the building in Csepel, which is our property, but we will host homeless people in our own City Hall building. We hope that we can save their health and lives.”

The ruling Fidesz party disagrees and shows no signs of social solidarity. What’s more, the District Mayor of the 5th District, where the City Hall is located, made a statement in the pro-government press against the plan to host homeless people there. According to Szilárd Németh, a Fidesz politician, the homeless shelter can be linked to the global conspiracy of George Soros against Hungary.

In reality, rather than plotting against Hungary, George Soros generously donated 1 million USD to Budapest to fight the Covid-19 crisis. From this donation the city bought masks and tests to support health hand social workers.

Homeless shelters had been extremely overwhelmed and overcrowded even before the Covid-19 epidemic in Hungary, where a ban on living on the street was added to the constitution in 2018, thereby criminalising homelessness. This situation has only escalated since the lockdown started. Many seasonal workers who lived at workers’ hostels lost their income and homes, and thousands of new people are turning up at the shelters and day kitchens as a consequence. There are reported outbreaks at multiple shelters now, despite quarantine measures. It was only the city council that provided protective equipment and tests to the clients and staff of shelters.

More info on Covid-19 and harm reduction: drogriporter.hu/en/how-harm-reducers-cope-with-the-corona-pandemic-in-europe/
𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐮𝐩𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐢𝐭𝐲 about Covid-19 and harm reduction, please send it to us at rightsreporter(at)rightsreporter.net!
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