Homeless person on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Between 800 and 900 people live in the streets across the country, according to statistics brought by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry to a Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee meeting on Tuesday.
A representative from Elem, an organization that assists at-risk youth, disputed the ministry’s statistics, stating that in fact the numbers are much higher and the problem more widespread.
Maria Podgaezky, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s national inspector for homeless people, presented current facts from the ministry, saying that of the 800 to 900 people living on the streets, 450 of them receive services and treatment by the municipal units, but continue living on the streets.
Of those living on the streets, 65 percent suffer from alcohol and/or drug addiction, 23% are mentally ill, and 35% suffer from physical illnesses, according to Podgaezky.
The largest population of homeless people is in Tel Aviv, followed by Jerusalem, Haifa and Ashdod. Fifty-five percent of the homeless are from the Former Soviet Union.
The ministry has 16 units operating to assist homeless people in different cities and eight units that provide night-time shelter.
MK Zehava Gal-on (Meretz), who called for the meeting, protested along with other MKs present the monthly stipend of NIS 1,000 given to homeless people to assist them in their search for a home.
“With this sum one could maybe [afford to] live in the gutter,” said Gal-on.
Committee chairman Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) added that “it’s enough with these games. People living on the streets need a roof and not limited benefits.”
A number of homeless people were present at the meeting and spoke about their situation. One 19-year old woman from Jerusalem, Atara Sheffer, spoke about escaping an abusive home at the age of 13 and living on the streets until she was 18.
“Currently I am living at a homeless shelter run by the Elem organization, which is open from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. because of budgetary problems, and the rest of the time we are thrown into the streets, and we have nowhere to eat, to rest, or to shower. I want to do national service and find a job, but they won’t accept me because of the stigma of being homeless,” Sheffer told the committee.
MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) noted that there is a lack of adequate solutions for homeless people between the ages of 18 to 26, to which Alalouf promised to discuss in follow-up meetings possible solutions such as additional bud - get for shelters.