In the context of COVID-19 pandemic, many NGOs have been helping migrants to overcome troubles and new circumstances they have face. Nochlezhka is one of such organizations. Ezhi Alimiva, a Nochlezhka expert on social work, talks about supporting migrants during the pandemic.
What is Nochlezhka?
Nochlezhka is the largest organization in Russia helping the homeless. Since 1990, we have been working in Saint Petersburg, and during the last two years we have been developing our Moscow branch.
Long story short, Nochlezhka helps people to leave the street. Here, people who have become homeless for any reason may ask for help. Consulting service at Nochlezhka helps solve social, legal, and medical issues to receive support in treatment of addictions. Nochlezhka experts help people to recover their documents, register disabilities, prepare lawsuits, search for jobs, along with hundreds of other things; all this makes a person closer to leaving the street and returning to normal life.
In Moscow, in addition to a consulting service, there is a ‘Night Bus’ where people in need may receive hot meal, means of hygiene, clothes, primary medical assistance.
Who could come for help to Nochlezhka?
We try to help everyone who comes. Most of our clients are homeless, but about a quarter of the ‘Night Bus’ visitors are not homeless but poor people. Sometimes foreign citizens come, mostly seeking legal consultations, help with job search and healthcare access.
Can you talk more about migrants? Who come to you usually and what issues do they have?
In most cases, they are labor migrants from Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Many of these people have lost their jobs during the pandemics, and this has resulted in losing their ability to rent home.
It is not uncommon for them to be cheated on by employers (including unofficial employment, refusal to pay after the work is done, or incomplete payment). We provide consultations on documents recovery, and obtaining Russian citizenship. We help to find jobs with our well-tried partners or may provide a computer with internet access for a job search.
One of the common difficulties is related to healthcare access. For such clients, we either ensure emergency care which by law covers all people regardless of their citizenship or availability of documents, or refer them to our partners specializing in medical care if emergency is not the case.
Can you provide an example of how Nochlezhka helps migrants to get medical care?
One of our recent cases: directly from the consulting service, we hospitalized an elderly woman from Ukraine. Now she is in process of becoming a Russian citizen. She had not felt well for several days and even fell on the street, but nobody helped. When she came to visit, our social workers noted she was sick, insisted on calling an ambulance, and ensured that doctors would treat her with respect. As a result, the woman was hospitalized with a stroke and received necessary treatment which saved her life.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect the work of Nochlezhka, in general and in migrant-related aspects?
Due to the pandemic, we were working remotely for some time. Our consulting service in Moscow opened in July 2020, when the restrictions were not very strict. We were able to attend people physically. All this time, we have been following the safety measures, including temperature measurement at the entrance, provision of masks and gloves. Our employees are being regularly tested for COVID-19. In addition, we have antiseptic gels and air disinfection machines in the office.
In all other aspects, our work is as usual as before. Daily problems of our visitors have not become better, rather, they have become worse due to the pandemic and crisis.
As our work [in Moscow] started during the pandemics, we do not have a ‘before’ period to compare with. But I can say that the number of visits by foreign citizens who are suffering for the consequences of the COVID-19 remain high enough.
This article was prepared with the support of Oxfam in the Russian Federation