“Laundry services for the homeless improve the “landscape” of the district”

The opening of the “Cultural Laundry” for the homeless in Savelovsky district of Moscow caused protests by local residents. Charitable Foundation “Nochlezhka” for nearly 30 years, helps persons without a certain residence. How it works in St. Petersburg, who designed a Laundry room in the capital and should we be scared of epidemics – Grigory Sverdlin, Director of Nochlezhka, in an interview with “Pravmiru”.

“Cultural Laundry” in Saint-Petersburg. Photo: homeless.ru

  • In St. Petersburg opened the country’s first Laundry for the homeless
  • Why should we help the homeless?
  • “I’m not afraid to turn to the homeless back”
  • “Nochlezhka”: our task is to help people get off the streets
  • The opening of the Laundry service for the homeless in Moscow provoked protests of local residents

We need to make a place within walking distance

– Gregory, when chosen the room, you personally came to the area, saw the room?

– Yes, personally came and personally watched. We focused specifically on Savelovsky district or some other. We focused on a simple criteria: we needed a certain lease rate is not higher than 1000 rubles per square meter; we were looking for a room approximately 50 to 80 square meters – more than we didn’t need, at least we have not got.

When we wrote to the Department of property relations and the Department of social protection, we are indeed asked and continue to ask for 310 meters, but we’re talking about the fact that they will be located and the shelter Advisory service, Laundry, shower, results things second-hand, clothes. But this is the room that we ask from the city. Address Petrovsko-Razumovsky proezd nothing but Laundry will not be.

We spent six months talking with different departments, mainly the Department of social protection and the Department of property relations, that there is a “bunkhouse” that we want to open in Moscow, ready to take on the costs of repair of the premises and the launch of the project, but we need the room. While we were refused.

– How do you explain the failures that got?

– I associate with what are generally very difficult to get a room in Moscow. As far as I know from colleagues who have received the room, it is always some kind of history with manual control. Oddly enough, no transparent procedure is not or, at least, we were not able to find it.

Grigory Sverdlin. Photo: Nadezhda Kiseleva / Facebook

We wrote a request, as I said, in the Department of property, we met with the head of the Department of social protection – by the way, they were the most open to dialogue. They even offered us a room that suited us in all respects, except the location: it is 13 stops on the bus from the metro station “Seliger” from the last metro station.

It is very far away. We want to make not a home, not a place where people almost do not go, we need to make a place that is within walking distance.

For example, in Advisory service to our social workers and lawyers in Petersburg come in daily from 30 to 70 people, and the same with other projects that we intend to placed in this area, which are negotiating with the city.

In General, we thought and thought and unfortunately big, had to give up, because nothing but a shelter for disabled people, for the people we organize, for example, in residential homes for the disabled and elderly, there is, unfortunately, not done.

And yet, the experience of the St. Petersburg orphanage, there are the elderly, and people with first or second group of disability, which we arrange in boarding schools, but many people working, we will help you to get a job. And from there, the metro station “Seligerskaya”, they just need to be more than two hours to go one way on the job. So we unfortunately had to decline, but other areas of the Department of social protection no.

– But there are existing and working in Moscow centers for the homeless where people can bathe, change clothes, eat? Why Laundry is not near them? There is already an environment prepared for this situation, and in General, it is logical – he bathed, changed clothes, washed, dressed in clean and went on.

– You know, that makes sense until you delve into the details. Because the room that we were looking for within walking distance, something that somehow could get to him, not so easy.

Usually laundries are located on the ground floor or basement of residential buildings, because of the Laundry need a pretty big electric capacity of more than 40 kilowatts, it is not in all leased spaces. So of course, we would be happy to take the room next to the “Hangar of salvation” together with our colleagues, but it is quite difficult, not many spaces for rent at a particular location, and even that it was from 50 to 80 square meters, and even to ensure that the electric power required, since there will be a washing machine and tumble dryer.

So we decided that the options in a residential building in the basement or ground floor, in principle, not considered. Although finding such an option would be much easier, but we immediately understood that it is not necessary. We were looking for: walking distance, power, price, and mileage, and we were looking for a fenced area, some industrial area, a separate building or a separate piece of the building.

This is what we found in this Savyolovsky district. I don’t know if you saw on the map or not is a small plant, which went bankrupt, now the premises of these affordable. Next to the Laundry is the garage. It is also an industrial area, enclosed two-meter fence.

When I got there and looked, I didn’t have any serious concerns that it may not like the district residents, because it’s one thing if we were making a point of distributing food to or at the image of St. Petersburg would do the heating – large heated tents where people come to spend the night, they hang around these tents, they are waiting for the opening of the tent, because at eight in the evening begins the work of these items heating, people spending the night there. Here Laundry is a project that, on the contrary, improves the landscape in the area.

Photo: homeless.ru

If the mother goes by to pick up my kid from kindergarten

– What does “improves the landscape in the area”? What is it like?

It means that people from afar will not go into this Laundry. This Laundry needs to be not one, not two and not three in a city like Moscow, and St Petersburg too.

These laundries operate on those people that were in the area and some adjacent territories are. People will not walk through Moscow in order to wash their own clothes, but still a large part of the homeless people moved on foot. So if earlier in the area adjacent territories these people were not able to wash their own clothes, now they will have the opportunity, it will be evident.

Some shower they are planning?

– There will be one shower. In St. Petersburg we have, unfortunately, it was not possible in the room, which we found, to make a shower. And in Moscow on the plan that we drew, like fit one shower cubicle. Shower will only be for visitors of a Laundry.

The man came, the receptionist helps him with washing and drying machines, of a man sitting on a chair, reading a magazine or watching TV. If he wants and he wants to clean up, during these two hours, until the cycle of washing and drying, he was still showering.

– How much you plan on washing machines out there that deliver? It is household or industrial machines? It’s just different based on the amount of work – they have different volume.

Eight washers, eight drying. I, frankly, I’m not a great specialist, what class of cars they are unable to lie. The scheme would be such that in the morning and afternoon can scrub your clothes in this Laundry service, and evening and night Foundation “Second wind,” with which we are launching this project, will be there to wash clothes. Accordingly, the main volume will fade during the evening and night. In the month turns of 7.5 tons, and a day 250 kg.

– It is clear. How did you made the calculations? What do you rely on when you define how many people will be coming, to what extent? You relied only on the St. Petersburg experience? Some amendments on the number of homeless in Moscow you haven’t managed to do it, right?

– We rely on the experience of the St. Petersburg Laundry, because it’s exactly the same number of cars in St. Petersburg – there is a project running from November 2016.

Photo: homeless.ru

The capacity of this Laundry is still limited, there are more than 40-50 people a day to do Laundry can not physically, unfortunately. We must understand that in the Laundry at the same time will be not more than 8-10 people.

– The rest, if they want to come on the street will have to wait? If there will be more, as it is supposed to also allow?

– It’s word of mouth, people also know where to go, where not worth it. Of course, if people come, they will have the opportunity to go inside and wait until the washing machine but no crowds, and no huge queues, I am sure, will not.

Then, we are still 28 years old and working, we arrange these or other services help the homeless. If there is a situation that more people than necessary, so we will supply volunteers, who will say: “Guys, today, unfortunately, does not work”. Or otherwise solve the organizational question.

Absolutely not in our interests to create around the convenience of the crowd, but I am sure that this will not do, because it’s not a food, it is not a free place to stay.

This is a free Laundry service is primarily for people who look after themselves.

I’m sure if we hadn’t announced the opening of a Laundry room, so residents of the area are not very would have noticed that they have something opened.

– Please tell me you saw the plan, which is quite near a Playground is? Somewhere near the hospital, as I understand it.

– About the hospital the first time I hear it, it’s kind of a new institution. There is a kindergarten. It is located 80 metres away, on the other hand, through two fences, over which barbed wire. I really don’t know why barbed wire for kindergarten.

Then I realize some sort of alarm residents of the area, which is not a very good idea of who is coming to this Laundromat, but absolutely no danger. No one passing by this kindergarten will not go.

– Gregory, I just looked through the map, really, 300 metres from Petrovsko-Razumovskiy, 13 is the hospital, and one of the major nursing premature babies, 8-th hospital, as I understand it. How to be in this case with the epidemiological situation?

– Want for the head to grab me at this point because I’m tired of these questions to answer over the past two weeks.

– About the hospital that you want me to, as I understand it, is now only heard? Why couldn’t tired of questions about the hospital.

Yeah, about the hospital, Yes. But about the epidemiological situation is directly favorite. Look, we took comments from experts in tuberculosis, for example. With one voice the people say that the tubercle Bacillus is everywhere – on the money, handrails, metro, in street dust, wherever possible to deal with it.

Projects that will promote hygiene among the homeless, on the contrary, improve the situation in the city, not worsen. From the point of view of fighting the epidemic far more important how you eat, how well do you sleep that you immune system and not something 300 meters away from you 40-50 people a day come to wash their own clothes. It has absolutely no impact on the epidemiological situation.

I also want to add that here in St. Petersburg the shelter Advisory service, point of delivery of things, a shower are located right in the middle of a residential area, not a two-meter fence as in Moscow, and so an openwork fence.

Photo: homeless.ru

Next to a cluster of services within 30 metres of a house, and 180 metres (we also directly measured) is a school and the polar Academy. 300 meters from the clinic. And not from the Laundry, and consulting services, where the homeless come with a lot of experience of homelessness, including those who did not wash their things – it’s not the people that come into the Laundry room.

We located there since 2005 – no epidemic has not happened in any school, neither the clinic nor the Academy, nor within 30 metres of a residential home. So let’s not scare each other some kind of epidemic – if it is not broke out in Moscow before, it will not break out in connection with the appearance of the Laundry room. Laundry is usually not the kind of thing that causes of the epidemic.

Suppose mom comes to pick up their child from the kindergarten when it is already dark and passes by the street, which was a lot of homeless people – are they erased once time. Is it any wonder that she might just be scared?

Yes, I understand. But Laundry closed at 17:30, it doesn’t work in the evening.

In four hours we have already dark in the winter. Then they do not go away, that they are there, something there they can eat. The question immediately arises to a common sanitary unit and what is simply terrible.

– No reason to hang out next to the Laundry there. We experience the St. Petersburg Laundry know that people come to wash clothes, dry it all, take and go. They have their own business, that’s not what they drank on the bench for a month and then: “something I’m dirty during this month was, I think I’m gonna do the Laundry”. And drink again on the bench.

It was others, that laborers from other cities, they often live and rented a bed in a hostel – not live on the street, but in this hostel there are no washing machines or there, but for the money you pay.

– You are in this situation do not see the danger, right?

If I saw in this situation a danger, I would look for another place.

It’s an industrial area, the six-foot fence, separate building

– Are there any possibilities to look for a place where institutions would not have been so close, for example, next to the “Hangar of salvation”? In Moscow, a lot of different points of work with the homeless, all would be convenient.

– Actually not so much, many of them located in places where it is effective to arrange assistance for the homeless is impossible. For example, there is a lovely huge TSSA “Lublin”, but he is in a place where it is impossible to place any Laundry, nor shower.

Not all services for homeless focus around the “Hangar of salvation”.

Why? It’s convenient! You showered, you ate, you washed. It is located perfectly.

– Moscow is a huge city. It is impossible to gather all homeless in one place and believe that once they’ve got all the services there, so they will be there to live somewhere and eyes, we will not be caught. It doesn’t work. Homeless people go to work.

As far as I know, colleagues from the “Charity” are going to put the washing machine and tumble dryer there and fine. I think that may be the point where you can do Laundry there, and let be the point where you can do Laundry in the Savelovsky district. And the one and the other point will be different customers. I repeat that the homeless in any area of the city.

Even if we find some ideal place, some kind of industrial area some larger than the current industrial zone in which are located Laundry, still people will need somewhere to go to this industrial area. They will still pass by houses. There is still somewhere to be a College, school, kindergarten.

We, unfortunately, in any area of Moscow are faced with the fact that part of the inhabitants of the district through which people walk to get to the Laundry, not sharply like that in their area someone, even if they are not to notice and to distinguish them from ordinary passers-by.

So it looks like the situation in St. Petersburg – the majority of visitors Laundry impossible to distinguish from ordinary people.

Photo: homeless.ru

– Do you think that a comfortable place in another district, less controversial, further away from the kindergarten, to find not possible, am I right?

– More than a month we were looking for a place, looked through hundreds of ads, several dozen of the addresses looked alive and finally found. This place is really industrial zone, a six-foot fence, separate building.

It seemed to us, and we remain confident that everything can be organized so that the inhabitants of the surrounding houses of this neighborhood were not bothered.

We will open a second Laundry room and opened many other in St. Petersburg, and be sure that we know how it will look in reality, not in the eyes of the local inhabitants who have well-founded fears, because they don’t fully know the problem.

Hope it’ll be

– How do you suggest further to resolve this conflict situation, which local residents have grown up around? In General, if there is any prospects?

I want to draw attention to the fact that there is definitely a group of people who are strongly opposed, and a group of activists within this group of people. But there are people who do not understand the screams, trying in the comments to be the voice of reason. Not to say that all Savelovsky district in unison have teamed up to deal with Laundry. Different opinions are there. Thank you to those who are comfortable with the project and who supports it.

Thus, we are constantly talking with the residents. Last Friday there was a meeting in the yard. Tuesday was a meeting with participation of the officials in the room.

We also think about how best to calm the residents of the area. We are even ready to take care of the adjacent territories a administrator of Laundry, maybe volunteers, in order to remove the fears of local residents that someone they will have to stay that they have someone somewhere to be litter. Nothing will happen, we are ready to follow through and take responsibility for the surrounding territory.

Ready for dialogue, ready for some additional expenses – can camera somewhere to hang, to be seen by the administrator of the Laundry service, where that takes place. In General, are in a living dialogue with the residents of the area and hope it’ll be.

We know that many of our colleagues who are homeless, are faced with similar situations, unfortunately. I know there was a similar story with the opening of a children’s hospice in Moscow, but it became clear over time that nothing horrible happens, everything calmed down.

We did not plan any confrontation, it is generally not our style of work. We are not ready for some long-term conflicts, I hope to avoid them. And we will negotiate.

Grigory Sverdlin. Photo: Ivan Kvasov / Facebook

– Last question about patrolling the area to monitor compliance with the order. The discussions had such a proposal – as you do you see this situation as employees and volunteers of the Foundation have to make it happen?

We think about it, I think this can be done by volunteers: may be a volunteer, plus the staff member or volunteer, plus the administrator of the Laundry.

Quite a lot of people who responded. In fact, their is an incredible amount, I didn’t expect such support that we have received over the past two weeks. And such criticism did not expect what we got, but such support is not expected.

Me many dozens of people wrote: “how can we help? When you opened up, I want to be a volunteer”. It is clear that in parallel wrote to my colleagues, but he also left a questionnaire at our website, we have the opportunity. I am sure that people who want to somehow participate in the work of this project, a lot. Oddly enough, such a project in Moscow – you can’t get anywhere and the queue is free to wash their own clothes.

It seems very important to this project was that people could freshen up. It helps to feel normal, to socialize, work, discover, interact with some instances, if the person is engaged in restoration of the documents – and this is a common story for the homeless.

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