Four months after Russia's economy began its latest tailspin, 10,000 people are living on the streets of Moscow. Sandra Reid, the Salvation Army's chief of social services for Moscow's 9 million people, sees her budgetary resources fully stretched, even though the Russian winter is yet to hit with full force.
Priorities for her office's care for needy Russians are first the homeless, then pensioners and prisoners. "Refugees and the homeless are the most disadvantaged people," Reid says.
Although Moscow has 10,000 homeless, the city-operated shelters can accommodate only 1,200 a night. And those shelters accept only people who can produce documents proving Moscow residency. Most of the city's homeless live in underground transit passages or sleep in waiting areas of train stations. Russia's recent attempts to reform its state-run economy have led to sharp drops in the value of its currency along with many other economic woes.
GOING TO THE NEEDY: Salvation Army employee Vasili Alexeiev supervises a program to help care for the physical and spiritual needs of Moscow's homeless. Hot borscht and bread are served from the back of a van each afternoon near the city's two largest train stations, where the Salvation Army feeds about 200 homeless a day. Once a week he distributes warm clothing. Alexeiev began feeding the homeless in 1990, the year the Salvation Army began working in Russia.
Late in the afternoon, Alexeiev tries to form relationships with the homeless, handing out soap and socks. Because of increasing restrictions on freedom of religion (CT, Oct. 26, 1998, p. 24), he is forbidden to distribute Christian literature.
An important piece of the Salvation Army's work among the homeless is to help them restore necessary personal ...1
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