Response to the Ukraine Conflict and Displacement Crisis

by | Aug 13, 2018 | News

Depaul Ukraine purchased a building in Odessa which comprises both Depaul’s daycentre for any homeless people in the city, and supported accommodation specifically for 25 internally displaced people (IDPs). This is an improvement on other shelters for homeless IDPs in Ukraine, which do not contain the kind of holistic support Depaul offers by pairing services and accommodation.

Outside of the building

Inspired by the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism, Depaul Ukraine was determined to adhere to St Vincent’s call for effective and innovative charity – by improving the care available for our neighbours displaced by conflict. As such, residents will have access to a full range of services including medical attention by the Daughters of Charity, hygiene facilities, meals, legal advice, and hospital liaison.

In the spirit of collaboration, the cost of purchase and refurbishment for this project was fully met by the kind generosity of supporters across the world, and a significant contribution from the local Daughters.

Back bedroom

The new building acts as the office of Depaul Ukraine in Odessa. This gives our fantastic staff in the city a proper working environment well connected to their clients. It provides a base to store outreach equipment – Depaul’s outreach van is pictured above outside the building. As Depaul owns the building, this has also reduced rental costs.

Depaul acquired the building in November last year and started allowing clients in by January. The staff did not want to leave clients in the dangerous cold, even though refurbishment is ongoing. The space is flexible – there are ten rooms in total – and Depaul has opened the central room with a table to allow clients to keep warm; got the showers working; and placed beds in the very back room already.

Central bedroom

Depaul Ukraine at the moment is prioritising those IDPs they believe have the best chance of escaping homelessness if offered the right support. For example, the first two clients at the centre both found jobs after they received a permanent bed at Depaul.

Around ten clients will sleep in the back bedroom, and around a further ten to fifteen will be able to sleep once the adjacent room is renovated. The ability to pair the shelter with comprehensive daycentre services means the quality of service to our clients is hugely improved. This will allow more IDPs to move out of homelessness for good.

Potential for Further Expansion

In addition to the brilliant facilities in this new building, there is potential for further expansion when the time is right. Directly adjacent is a shop which could be bought to create a standalone shelter right next to the daycentre. The owner of the adjacent building has already indicated he would be willing to sell to Depaul.

This next door building could accommodate around a further 50 IDPs and other homeless people. Depaul’s new base in Odessa therefore allows for upscaling of provision if possible in the future. The crisis is so intense that Depaul is determined to extend the philosophy of ‘welcoming the stranger’ when resources allow.

Homelessness in Odessa

Our staff have told us the crisis in Odessa is not abating, affirming this as a highly appropriate place to situate the Depaul Group’s contribution to marking the Vincentian Charism’s 400th anniversary. The situation for homeless people in Odessa is very desperate. Our staff told us that over winter a gentleman who used Depaul’s outreach service froze to death.

On the same night, a large group of homeless people (many of them IDPs) who camp in warming tents in the city’s main park were attacked by local gangs – their tents were destroyed and many people were badly beaten. One came to Depaul’s daycentre the next morning to stay safe: his eyes were black, his face scarred, and he cowered in the corner too afraid to talk. Our staff were in tears – but this redoubled their conviction that their new project is serving the needs of our brothers and sisters on the streets.

Source: DePaul Report to the Vincentian Family, July 2018