Tel Aviv, NGOs work to help homeless migrants

Ahead of stormy weekend, volunteers and municipal workers bring blankets, hot meals and food to south Tel Aviv's Levinsky Park.

Homeless African migrant on bench in south Tel Aviv 390 (R) (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / Reuters)
Homeless African migrant on bench in south Tel Aviv 390 (R)
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / Reuters)
Stormy winter weather expected this weekend could endanger the lives of the dozens of homeless African migrants sleeping outdoors in south Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park, volunteers warn.
A number of NGOs and volunteers have been visiting the park in the late evenings for the past week, cooking hot meals and handing out blankets and winter clothing to the migrants.
The Tel Aviv Municipality is providing food and clothing.
Uriel Levy of the Dror Israel organization said the blankets and food are not enough to help the homeless sleeping in the park near the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, and that city hall should open municipal bomb shelters to house them during the winter.
The city said on Thursday morning that its municipal staff are working to the best of their ability “to help the population of refugees and infiltrators. As part of this, we have invested large sums in distributing blankets, warm clothes, hot drinks and food for the refugees sleeping in the streets. This distribution will be carried out every night in Levinsky Park until the end of the winter.”
It added that the city’s social services department is helping some 550 homeless people in the city, 64 percent of whom are either drug addicts or alcoholics.
The city said that during the winter months it invites those homeless people to temporary shelters where it provides them with food, clothing, hot showers and a place to sleep.
It also said it provides assistance for homeless people working in receiving benefits from state authorities and in finding psychiatric treatment, job placement and housing.
On his way to the park to deliver pots of lentil and sweet potato soup on Thursday, volunteer Yigal Shtayim said he is doing his part because the city is not at all taking care of their responsibilities.
“City hall prevents them from finding shelter, takes away their food, their blankets, their ability to work,” he said. Shtayim added that the state’s refusal to allow African migrants to legally work drives more and more of them into the streets.
A homeless man reportedly died of exposure on a street in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. A man named Gili told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the deceased man was a homeless middle-aged Ethiopian- Israeli named Yohannes (Yonatan) Barko with a wife and children in Lod, who had spent much of the summer sleeping at the Levinsky Park protest tent city.
Gili said Barko, who at least one media report said was an African asylum-seeker, was an alcoholic and that his drinking played a role in his death. The Tel Aviv Police declined to say whether or not a man was found dead of exposure last weekend. Magen David Adom was also unable to do so.
At around 1 a.m. on Thursday, at least 50 African migrants huddled together under the canopy of the playground at Levinsky Park. Each lay wrapped in at least one blanket, and they covered every corner of the rubber floor like a human quilt. Some 85% of African migrants are men, and this reporter did not see any women sleeping in the park.
While most of the men were sleeping, many were up talking with one another or playing songs on their cellphones.
Another 15 or so Africans lay under the Levinksy Park library, and across the grass and the benches of the park other migrants sought to sleep and to stay warm overnight.