Shelters prepare to host the homeless during winter in İstanbul

Homeless people in İstanbul are welcomed to sports centers during the harsh days of winter. (PHOTO CİHAN, Sinan Gül)

November 25, 2012, Sunday/ 14:02:00

Homeless shelters across Turkey are getting ready to open their doors as temperatures start to drop.

Thousands of homeless people in Turkey face the danger of freezing to death every winter, and in an effort to prevent such situations local authorities have taken the initiative to provide warm shelter for hundreds without a home

A written statement from the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, which started the shelter program in 2004, said the municipality will once again provide housing to the homeless to protect them from frigid temperatures in the winter months. The municipality will continue to operate a homeless shelter at the Metin Oktay Sports Complex in Yeniköy.

İstanbul’s Disaster Coordination Center (AKOM) determines when temperatures drop low enough to be life threatening for those who live on the streets. Once AKOM reaches that conclusion, police departments, municipal workers and social outreach teams head out into the cold to find people living on the streets and bring them to a warm shelter. As part of the project, the homeless are being picked up from the streets thanks to tips from İstanbul residents and brought to the warm shelters. Around 1,700 people took refuge in the gym according to the municipality last year.

The Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality also provides warm shelters. Police officers locate homeless people who often attempt to take refuge in crowded areas such as hospitals, bus terminals and train stations and take them to the shelter where they also undergo a medical examination.

The mayor of Kocaeli, İbrahim Karaosmanoğlu, who was elected to office in 2004, told Sunday’s Zaman that they have been providing care to the city’s homeless since 2005. “In 2011, we provided clean clothing and a hot meal three times a day to around 450 people. We also contacted the Turkish Employment Organization [İŞKUR] to help us in providing jobs for the homeless,” added Karaosmanoğlu.

İzmir’s Müyesser Turfan Shelter (Müyesser Turfan Güçsüzler Evi), which is open all year long, is one such warm shelter. Before people are brought to the shelter they are taken to Eşrefpaşa State Hospital for a medical examination. An official from the shelter who asked not to be named as public servants are not authorized to speak to the press told Sunday’s Zaman that if a contagious disease is detected in a person during the examination, the shelter will pay for their treatment.

The Municipality of Bursa in the Marmara region is also getting set to open up its homeless shelter. According to a statement made by Bursa Mayor Recep Altepe last week, the municipality will be able to host around 450 people. Noting that the individuals hosted in the facility are not only provided with accommodation but also with health services, he said the shelter will be in operation until the weather gets warm.

The Greater Ankara Municipality has used a slightly different approach when it comes providing housing for the homeless. Last year the municipality rented a five-story hotel and was able to provide accommodation for 617 homeless people. Those who were registered at the hotel were provided toiletries and given rooms that have a bathroom and television. The municipality will use the same approach this year, and the governor’s office will assist people in finding a job, and those who want to set up a small business will be given the necessary capital and people with chronic health problems will be sent to the hospital for treatment. The municipality also has an agreement with a nearby restaurant where the people will be given food.

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