The people who have lost the roof over their heads this year will be seeing their first Christmas on the streets, together with the “veterans” of the streets all across the country. Just as last year, the year before that, and the year before that, they will all be trying to keep warm inside their cardboard boxes, with just a lucky few finding shelter for the night at crisis centres. Because this will be one more winter when it will be a difficult thing to find room at such a social institution. And also because an ID card is required, which most homeless people do not have, because, obviously, they do not have a home address.
This is the seventh year in which the “There is a way” foundation has been launching its campaign called “Knit some warmth” for providing those in need with handmade knitwear. The festival “Colourful knitwear” the foundation organizes to raise money for the homeless is to take place on 3 and 4 November at Serdika Centre in Sofia.
“Our mission is to keep the homeless warm – to teach more people how to knit so we can have more scarves, hats, gloves, socks which we can give the homeless for the cold winter days and nights,” says Margarita Sokolova, chairperson of “There is a way”. “And also to make more people aware of our cause. During the two days of the festival, master-knitters will be demonstrating different techniques, there will be a display of beautiful knitwear, and a fashion parade of knitwear.”
The “There is a way” foundation was set up with the idea of helping the homeless by giving them some warmth, but most of all of urging the state to reach out to them so they may be helped back to their feet. For seven years the foundation has been making every effort to help find shelter and some kind of employment for people living in the street. It has been making efforts to find ways to help orphans start work upon coming of age, to open more social homes for the elderly, to include safeguard clauses for bank credits in the event of unemployment, government guarantees of a subsistence threshold for everyone to prevent people from finding themselves out in the street.
“As to the way the state treats the homeless, I see no progress there,” comments Margarita Sokolova and adds that it is in the hands of the social ministry to provide them with the minimum of living conditions.
“But that is not high up on their agenda,” she says. That is why there will be 3,000 people nationwide who will praying for a mild winter and for acts of kindness from the public.
“They are a constantly growing group most of all because of their precarious social status, as a reflection of the state the country is in,” Margarita Sokolova says further. “More and more people are finding it impossible to make a living, and that means they lose any chance of having somewhere to live or paying rent. I am not talking about owning a home, I am talking about the bare minimum – living in one room. Unfortunately there are more and more people who do not have even that.”
Add to this their practically zero chance of finding a job.
“We have seen businesses with an interest in finding low-skilled labourers for outdoors work – in parks and gardens,” Margarita Sokolova says. “Employers are not ready to let the homeless inside their offices, they only use them for menial work. But many of the homeless people are not in good health because of the numerous hardships they have to cope with every day.”
And all of us, who don’t even know how lucky we are, shouldn’t wait for Christmas to show our gratitude for everything we have with a gesture.
“What the homeless cherish most is the attention, because they are outsiders. That is why any, even the smallest gesture is so important to them – a warm bowl of soup, or a hot meal in a jar, a kind word, socks, gloves. Whatever people can spare. Don’t look away from them – they are just as human as we are.”
English version: Milena DaynovaPhotos: imanachin.bg