Homeless people from the Czech capital have been staying in hotels and hostels across the city for the past several months to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 infections among them. The Prague City hall now decided to prolong the duration of a project until March of 2021.
The Prague City Hall will extend accommodation in hotels and hostels for about 300 homeless people, which it has secured in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, with the plan to keep the beds available to homeless people until March of the next year. The goal is to help homeless people get back on their feet, and thanks to the support of the municipality, hoteliers are also benefiting as they could go bankrupt otherwise.
Hotel rooms from the BOHO CO hotel chain, to which the three-star Czech Inn belongs, have been providing shelter to about 300 homeless people since April, especially the elderly and the sick.
“Everyone loves it here. We get a hot lunch, we have coffee and tea here, they regularly bring us clean sheets, we can wash our clothes in the laundry room,“ said one of the women staying in a hotel.
In addition to expenses with rents, operating costs, food, and hygiene, the Prague City Council is also liable for any damages.
“This was a great concern of hoteliers, but during the three months of operation there was only minor damage that was quantified at thousands of korunas,” Adam Zábranský, Councilor for Housing and Transparency, told Lidovky.cz.
“Originally, it was a crisis measure to prevent infection among the homeless. But it occurs to me that we can use this as an opportunity and help people solve long-term problems and get them off the streets,“ said Zábranský.
According to him, the health condition of the residents has also significantly improved. This is one of the reasons why the cooperation has been prolonged even though the wave of the pandemic is slowly fading away and the fundamental hygienic measures have been relaxed.
According to Jiří Judy, the director of the humanitarian organization, which is cooperating with the project, such aid can be a so-called spanning bridge. Without experience the constant stress and insecurity of homelessness, it could make returning to a normal life easier for many of them.
“Of the 70 people who have been accommodated in the Czech Inn hotel since the beginning, about half of them have become our clients, they want our help with the administration at the offices so that they can start working on their own,” described Juda.
Hoteliers are paid to care for the homeless
Hoteliers involved in the project have also avoided bankruptcy through the government’s plan.
“It doesn’t compensate for the losses, but at least we can give work to our people and pay them. If the municipality had not come up with this offer, we would not have existed,” said Babeta Schneiderová, director of the BOHO CO hotel network.
A major influx of guests is not expected at this time. “Reservations are not starting to rise yet, I do not expect an increase until the spring of 2021. This is a way for us to survive the period when guests do not travel. We hoped that the cooperation would be extended,“ added Schneider.
Nevertheless, some hotels may not want to extend the contracts, and the municipality will look for new ones.
“Of the six buildings we had, we will continue in four, in two we were unable to find an agreement with the owner,” said Zábranský. “But the intention is to gradually move homeless people from hotels elsewhere. We will always make lease contracts with hotels for the next two months and extend them if necessary.”
With the end of the original contracts, conditions will also change from July. For example, the municipality will no longer pay for food.
According to a document approved by Prague councilors, the cost of accommodation will require about 2.4 million korunas per month (€90,000), and another million korunas (€37,500) will be required every month for above-standard services, such as strengthening staff at the reception or sanitary equipment.
For the elderly who are no longer able to work, the municipality wants to look for housing in apartments for seniors or nursing homes. Younger ones, according to the councilor, should pay rent in a commercial hostel, or they can apply to rent an apartment in the city.
“We are trying to create a wider range of tools that social workers will be able to use to stabilize homeless people,” said Zábranský.
According to a census conducted by the Research Institute of Labor and Social Affairs last April, about 3,250 homeless people live in Prague. About a third of them sleep directly on the street while others use various types of social services or temporary accommodation.
Title image: A man living on the streets is treated for a foot injury by medical students dressed in a protective gear in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, April 30, 2020. Despite coronavirus pandemic risks the group called “Medics on the street” continues to treat injuries and illnesses of homeless people. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)