The Nonexistent Ones
A documentary film about the volunteers who help the homeless in Kyiv (2021)
Many great things in our cruel world hinge on the people called volunteers. Every one of them chooses what he or she will do, this way creating the story. One of such stories is being written in Kyiv.
It is the story about the volunteers who help the homeless. How and why did the volunteers decide to be on the side of the angels with this very specific activity? Why to help people we call hobos, scourges, vagrants?
Going off the radars
The problem is that the homeless seem to go off the radars. Modern society does not notice them: they have no documents, no registration, no ID codes, no medical cards, no accounts. You cannot find them on social networks. The overall "digitalization" never involves them. And even physically, on the streets, they try to avoid other people's eyes and prefer to stay unseen. The people who have neither house nor home get more and more immersed in their social non-existence and dispar.
But there are several volunteer groups in Kyiv providing much-needed help to the homeless - feeding, clothing, medical treatment, rehabilitating, ridding of various addictions. Many of the homeless are ready to start working, earning money, and living a full life. But they certainly need help with that. Their faith in society, in institutions, and in people, in general, is undermined, especially 'thanks' to their former relatives and friends who threw them out into the streets. The homeless know well what cruel indifference means, and how it hurts.
Most homeless people would like to return to normal human life and are ready to act. But a person without documents and wearing dirty clothes simply has no chance to get a job and somehow change his or her social position.
There are those who just broke down and began to decay and refuse to get going. They drink, stay idle, and do nothing. They just agreed to live on the streets. Sometimes they try to justify this choice with the desire for freedom - but still being unable to use this freedom in the dead-end of street life they live. However, such committed vagrants are not many.
There is a law "On Social Services", but it obviously misses the target. What kind of "services" can a homeless person obtain when he or she has no documents, no ID, no job, no shelter? After all, the whole problem is not about services, but about the basic needs of life and protection of people - the protection the state cannot provide. Therefore, the volunteers try to find ways to have a constructive dialogue with government institutions and to identify the basic survival needs of the homeless
The pandemic of 2019, which persists today, has made its brutal adjustments in the lives of homeless people. Having no regular access to heating and food supplies, they are in serious trouble. Not everyone managed to survive during this time. Many people died of cold and starvation right on the streets. COVID and other things like COVID kill them first. Under adverse epidemiological circumstances, this is the most vulnerable social group. In addition, they are active spreaders of various diseases.
You never see it on TV. Such stories are almost never discussed on social networks and in the circles of everyday communication. But the sad truth is: in the 21st century, in the capital of a European country, people are still dying on the streets from cold and malnutrition. What can be done to change this awful situation? Where is that magic button to call for social emergency assistance to press it and immediately have the human protection service arrive?
The scale of the problem
Every Saturday, the volunteers come to the train station, Maydan, to Podil, and to every district of Kyiv where they feed these people and learn more about how to help. There are more and more homeless people in Ukraine, and their total number is still unknown. It is estimated that there are between 7,000 and 10,000 such people in Kyiv alone, and these numbers are impressive and frightening.
The help of the volunteers creates a new phenomenon - a horizontal interaction. People living on the streets are beginning to actively help volunteers. They get involved and included. They come on the radars. But it is impossible to solve the problem with the efforts of volunteers and their assistants. However, thanks to these efforts, there is hope that things will finally move forward.