The Istanbul and Ankara Governorates have been hosting homeless citizens in hotels, giving them a warm place to stay as well as food, new clothes, and access to healthcare.

Winter is here, and on top of the cold slowly seeping in, the pandemic hasn’t stopped making rounds. Governors in Istanbul and Ankara decided that they could at least put a roof over homeless citizens’ heads.

The initiative in Istanbul, called “No one left outside! Let’s host them” (Kimse Dışarıda Kalmasın! Misafir Edelim) asks citizens to report to the governorate any homeless people sleeping rough so that they can be brought in from the cold. The initiative covers all 39 districts of Istanbul and sees homeless people checked into hotels.

Eyupsultan District Governor Ihsan Kara says the district is hosting 15 citizens at the moment, and pleads with people to call in when they see someone homeless trying to survive outdoors in dire conditions.

Kara says after the homeless citizens went through a health check, they were brought to the hotel and are now staying in single rooms as a precaution for Covid-19. “We are quite prepared for this. People can approach district governorate teams, the police, or call the 112 hotline, we can take calls from all around. They are our valued guests; to provide for all their needs is a great duty for us.”

The Istanbul Governorate is hosting 226 homeless citizens in hotels they have made arrangements with, as of December 12, 2020, according to a statement.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya has ordered district governorates and social assistance and solidarity foundations to once again take part in the “No one left outside! Let’s host them” project. This year is the project’s second year. It is being carried out with respect to pandemic precautions.

According to the statement, the project aims to bring the homeless indoors for a warm meal and a soft bed, while reducing the risk of contagion of Covid-19. “We believe that all Istanbulites will show the necessary sensitivity to this project so that none of our citizens have to sleep outdoors [in wintertime during a pandemic].”

The statement asks citizens to inform the closest police or gendarme station if they see someone sleeping on the streets. It says the homeless are taken to single rooms in arranged hotels and given PCR tests, and their hygiene, clothing, food, shelter and similar needs are met, and psychological support is provided when necessary.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya has tweeted about the project, reminding Istanbulites that the project is once again going forward this year and that they should participate by helping the homeless meet up with governorate officials.

Meanwhile, in Ankara, the governorate has taken similar steps, placing the homeless into the governorate shelter as lockdowns take place. Homeless individuals such as Mehmet Ali Camurdan, Suleyman GUler and Fatih Ozbey who have been trying to survive living outdoors by lighting fires and hugging blankets donated by Ankara residents are brought in from the cold.

The “Lending a helping hand to the homeless” project (Kimsesizlerin Kimsesi Olma Projesi) is brought to life by Ankara Governorate Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation, the Police Organisation, and other public institutions and establishments since 2010.

Within the project, individuals in town who are suffering from social and economic straits are protected from the cold, are rehabilitated, and given a place to stay. Those over 60 are placed in care homes, while the disabled are routed towards rehabilitation centres. The homeless individuals fit for work are handled through the Turkish Employment Agency who seeks to find them a job.

Currently, in Ankara, there are 214 homeless persons being sheltered.

Speaking to Turkish news agency AA, Mehmet Ali Camurdan and Suleyman Guler tell of their rescue from a park in Altindag district where they were trying to keep warm by burning a fire.

“The streets were our home but now we’ve found a new, warm home, “Camurdan says, referring to the tough times he survived with Guler, another homeless individual. “Now we have a place to take shelter. We used to sleep in parks. May God bless our state.... I have a disability. If it weren’t for the governorate teams, we could have died in a few days.”

Guler, 59, says he has been staying on the streets for 28 years.  He says he was thankful to be at the shelter. “We are neither thieves nor [perverts who ogle] people’s wives or daughters. That’s why we are peaceful.”

Due to his financial problems, Fatih Ozbey has been estranged from his wife and living on the streets since his mother, a cancer patient, had died. Ozbey says he wants to work in a job with insurance to win back his family.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies