Resident of the night shelter Saulius: everyone ends up here involuntarily

Stereotypes about shelters and the public attitude towards them have been slowly changing for the better – Janina Kulienė, Director of the night shelter in Naujoji Vilnia, Kojelavičiaus g. 50, is sure of that. The woman, who has worked here since the very opening of the shelter, tells us that anyone can end up in a shelter – ex-pilots, actors, doctors, military personnel, musicians, teachers and even well-known people have lived here. Therefore, the stereotypes that solely anti-social persons live in shelters are sad and do not reflect the reality.

“We have a variety of people staying at the shelter for shorter or longer periods of time: we also accommodate older people, seniors who receive decent retirement pensions, but do not have any relatives and have nowhere else to go. There are people who start their lives anew. The average age of the residents is 40-50 years. We work with everyone in person, because the mission of the shelter is to integrate, to start a normal life with the help of our employees, to be a part of the society rather than living in exclusion, to help people understand that life does not end here,”- says J. Kulienė.

Janina Kulienė

Such help has allowed many residents to get back on their feet, visit museums, theatres, exhibitions. Each resident also receives personal psychological assistance, because living in a shelter for a long time can do a lot of damage. As the Director observed, people who have been homeless for quite a while lose even their basic communication skills, so they need to reassert themselves, especially when looking for a job.

The interviewed resident of the shelter Saulius, 42, came to Vilnius to look for a job with just one euro in his pocket. Having received information on where to turn to for accommodation at the Information Center, Saulius has lived in the shelter for a month now.

“I gave up my addictions and am currently working at a workshop. I am very pleased and grateful for the help that I get at the shelter. The staff is very helpful. I am not ashamed of the fact that I live here – I understand that all the people, who live in the shelter, did not end up here voluntarily,” said Saulius, whose dream is to visit his daughter, who lives in Ireland.

The Director of the shelter told us that some former residents of the shelter stay in touch – they come back to say thanks, to talk or to get an advice.

One of the current temporary residents of the shelter is Gžegož, who ended up in the shelter due to his addiction to alcohol. At first, the 55-year-old man was treated at a rehabilitation center, and now he lives in A. Kojelavičiaus street.

“If it wasn’t for this shelter, God knows were I would be now. Probably I would continue drinking. And now I work paying off my debts, and have been enrolled in line for social housing. I am trying to change my entire life, because there was a time when I did not want to live, I had nothing and I had no hope. Living in the shelter I no longer feel alone, and employees have been helping a lot. I always have who to turn to when faced with a problem. They help me get on my feet and I feel very grateful for that. Having lived here for that many years, I also try to motivate all residents of the shelter to change”, – told Gžegož, who promised to come back here to say thanks and to visit shelter employees after he receives a social housing.

During the summer, there are about 60 people living in the shelter, and 15 employees working in its administration. The building, which currently accommodates people facing difficulties, is in a very poor condition.

“We desperately need a renovation of the building, because we accommodate even more people during the winter, many of whom are disabled. We have too few beds, many people just don’t fit. A renovation is necessary, because there are not enough showers or water, disabled people cannot climb to the top bunk bed, and special equipment is needed,” the Director of the shelter told us about the condition of the building.

The night shelter building undergoes reconstruction for the first time

Residents and employees of the shelter at A. Kojelavičiaus g. 50 will finally receive the much-waited renovation of the building – repair works, which will cover not only the building, but also its surrounding environment, will start in October. This will be the fist reconstruction in the history of the shelter. During works of renovation of the building and the surroundings, all residents of the shelter and its administration will be temporarily moved to the premises located at A. Jaroševičiaus g. 10B, Naujininkai, in October.

Living and working conditions in the renovated shelter will change significantly: the introduction of the pipeline system and the installation of 10 showers instead of the current 2, which are used by as many as 60 people, will greatly improve hygiene conditions and service quality. The surrounding territory will be paved, planted with new greenery, and small architecture will be set up. The provision of social services will also be renewed – residents will participate in new integration programmes.

Social and other innovative services will be provided at the reconstructed shelter, the service quality and impact on residents of the shelter will improve. The aim is to integrate homeless people into the society more effectively, to reduce exclusion and to increase social inclusion.

Nuotr. Saulius Žiūros.

Energy saving solutions are planned in the building during renovation, insulating the building facade, plinth, window openings, roof and other external partitions, floor on soil, replacing windows and exterior doors, reconstructing hot and cold water supply, sewage and heating systems, installing additional sanitary facilities, and arranging the environment. The renovated building will meet Class A energy performance requirements.

General social and social care services (temporary and long-term accommodation, development and maintenance of social skills) for persons at social risk will be provided in the reconstructed building. The existing shelter premises will also be expanded in the course of the reconstruction: 60 temporary and 40 long-term accommodation places were designed.

The two-storey shelter premises will be divided to storeys by function. The ground floor will be designated for temporary accommodation and the second floor – for long-term accommodation. Shelter administration will also be set up on the second floor.

Currently, the building is in poor condition, it has insufficient sanitary facilities, the existing engineering equipment is worn out and often breaks down.

More than EUR 2 million was allocated for the works of reconstruction, of which nearly EUR 1.7 million are funds from the European Union Regional Fund.

The plan is to finish the reconstruction of the shelter at A. Kojelavičiaus g. 50 in the fall of 2021.