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Prevention is key (illustration) Photo: Visual/Photos
Prevention is key (illustration) Photo: Visual/Photos
 
 

Report: Israel fails to care for homeless

Civil rights group's account of State's care for its homeless reveals municipal, government offices lack information as to problem's scope, use outdated criteria to determine aid eligibility

Yael Branovsky
Published: 05.05.09, 08:23 / Israel News

The Israeli authorities are neglecting the homeless and are shifting responsibility for the issue between them, a civil rights activists' report said Monday.

 

The report, compiled by Attorney Gil Gan-Mor from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Advocate Dana Farber-Hefetz of the Tal Aviv University, outlined the bleak situation of homeless people in Israel, predicting that the financial crisis may result in more people finding themselves in such dire straits.

 

It also outlines a framework for a new policy, meant to aid those down on their luck.

 

According to the data, the Israeli authorities, both municipal and governmental, are lacking in information regarding the true state of homelessness in Israel.

 

In 2005, they cite an example, 20% of single-parent families reported being homeless in the five years prior. The Ministry of Social Affairs, added the report, only handles a handful of cases, since according to its procedures, only those who suffer from drug addiction, mental dissociation or neglect, are eligible for assistance.

 

"These radical circumstances are the only ones which render the homeless eligible for immediate assistance, but the criteria does not fit their need, nor is it the one acceptable worldwide," said the report.

 

"The right to emergency shelter is one of every human being's basic rights, but Israel does not provide housing for homeless families," said Attorney Gan-Mor.

 

"Many cannot get in to the few shelters that are available, because the majority of people there are either ill or under the influence of drugs."

 

Outdated criteria, inadequate solutions

According to the report, Israel had also failed to institute a prevention program, which could go a long way to help those on the brink of homelessness.

 

"According to Construction and Housing Ministry guidelines, the homeless are eligible for assistance only if they spent 30 nights sleeping on the street, or in 'similar dire conditions,'" he explained.

 

"Other countries believe that preventing a person from reaching that point is not only a worthy policy, it is also a much more economical one."

 

Like in many other cases, added Gan-Mor, the Israeli authorities prefer holding one another responsible for dealing with the situation, rather than actually doing something.

 

Gilad Harish, head of the Israeli Public Service Venture Fund, which cares for all homeless people in Tel Aviv, added that the State must form an official body to handle the problem nationwide.

 

"When every city is left to deal with the problem on its own, the solutions are not adequate and there are not enough permanent solutions. We provide temporary shelter, but permanent ones are needed as well. On top of that there are very few solutions that combine drug rehabilitation, which is awful, since most of them are addicts."

 

The Construction and Housing Ministry said in response that it offered rent assistance to some 170,000 households nationwide, as well as provides subsidized mortgages to homeless couples.

 

"There is a clear division of responsibilities among the governmental bureaus and we have taken it upon ourselves to care for those living on the street, not for those who are devoid housing," said the statement.

  

According to the ministry, in 2008 it was able to help 1,847 street dwellers and last year has seen a sharp drop in the cases of street dweller deaths as well.

 

"The Ministry of Social Affairs has developed several municipal programs over the past few years as well, but those need further development, which requires more earmarked funds."

 

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