Shelters Fill as Cold Grips Plzeň

Ivan Blažek

As the winter chill sets in, shelters for people experiencing homelessness in Plzeň begin to fill. The emergency shelter in Depo, which only opens for such occasions, is practically complete. On the other hand, at the charitable Home of St. Francis, a stone’s throw from the station, some beds were still available on the first icy night.

“We have a hundred and one of them, and eighty-eight people slept here on Monday night,” Džemal Gërbani, head of the mentioned facility, told Novinky. He added, “And we have a more relaxed regime; we are more tolerant of alcohol and drugs because of the frost. Right now, we would only not accept someone who is heavily under the influence or behaving aggressively.”

Gërbani believes that the capacity of the local shelter will be sufficient, even if the harsh winter lasts longer. Drawing from experience at the beginning of December, when the frost lasted about ten days, there were still about twenty places available. Gërbani predicts a similar situation now.

It seems that those homeless who only use shelters in really dire situations prefer to go to Depo. There, the city activated emergency accommodation in an unused hall on Sunday. “On Monday night, fifty-three people slept here, so we were practically full,” said Marek Novotný, director of the Plzeň Christian Aid Center, which operates this facility.

This shelter only operates when the frost hits. It was fully operational at the beginning of December. “We managed to take care of a guy in a wheelchair. And that we had to call the city police, that only happened once,” Novotný recalled.