Our main goal is to care for people who are not covered by the health and social system in Bulgaria, as well as limiting the consequences of social exclusion and alleviating the lives of people living on the street by providing health, social and psychological counselling.
Our team consists of a manager (nurse), a social assistant/driver and a psychologist. Our associates have a wealth of experience in dealing with people abusing psychoactive substances, carriers of the HIV virus or already suffering from AIDS, other blood-borne diseases, homeless people, people at risk and / or suffering from tuberculosis, alcohol addicts, and children at risk.
Many homeless people come from minorities and marginalized groups who live isolated in the end districts of the city, thus remaining out of the scope of the social system. Most live on the streets or in old abandoned buildings with no access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. A common feature among all of them is the inability to satisfy their basic needs, such as food, access to clean water, warmth, health, safety, and a calm and peaceful sleep. Some of our beneficiaries are elderly people, which further complicates their situation.
Among those living on the streets, many suffer from some sort of mental disorder – alcoholism, use of psychoactive substances, depression and others. As in all cases of homelessness, any opportunities for the individual’s self-realization and their ability to fully participate in the public life are extremely low despite the fact that, in many cases, such people are well educated and, in the past, used to have an average or above-average standard of living for the country. It is estimated that roughly 25% of all homeless people in Sofia have a university degree.
The age of homeless people who are excluded from public and social life in Sofia is very diverse – from people at a young age (16-17) to people above the age of 85. The ratio of women to men is 2:1. It is worth noting that, according to our field observations, women tend to cope more easily and more successfully with street problems or social exclusion than men, especially men over 55. For the latter, time seems to have stopped and their negative attitude towards all aspects of life is very strongly pronounced. Depression and despair add to their desire for abuse of alcohol and/or other substances.
The services that we offer include:
Оur team uses the outreach approach in their daily work with homeless people. The advantage of this approach is the establishment of good relationships with the target groups in their communities, which implies authenticity, mutual trust and respect. During the period January-December 2019, 2,302 beneficiaries received services from our mobile team. Due to beneficiaries’ lifestyle and lack of stable finances, many do not have health insurance. That is why the services we offer are constantly changing and being adapted, in order to be more accurately respond to the needs of every person who seeks our assistance.
Meetings with the homeless are scheduled to take place at predetermined spots, where we distribute essential medicines, measure blood pressure and/or blood sugar levels, take blood samples for rapid HIV/AIDS and syphilis tests, as well as samples for hepatitis B and C to be further analysed in a lab. There are many cases of decontamination - tick removal and sulfur scab. Often, it is also necessary to treat infected wounds with serious complications and abscesses due to people’s lack of basic hygiene and dressing materials. Some of the wounds are old and chronic, spanning large spaces, requiring frequent treatment. In others, medical specialist intervention is also required.
The distribution of painkillers, as well as the distribution of hot drinks and broths is part of our daily work in our field meetings with the various beneficiary groups.
Every day, our team is confronted with various complicated cases and most of the time we try to act fast and find a solution as quickly as possible.
Our project was funded by the “Communitas” Foundation, the Ministry of Health (MH) and Caritas Ostrava. Following the completion of the project for the prevention of tuberculosis in Bulgaria, funded by the MH, the main sponsors of the project remained “Communitas” and Caritas Ostrava thanks to whom we are able to carry out the majority of the activities described above.
Our team is in constant contact with representatives of the Social Assistance Directorate in the regions of Vazrazhdane, Krasna Polyana, Mladost, Poduene and Serdika. We also have good relationships with the Centres for Temporary Accommodation of Homeless on the territory of Sofia and the municipal crisis centres.
With the help of donations from the National Drug Addiction Centre and the National HIV and AIDS Confirmation Laboratory, our beneficiaries managed to receive additional medical tests. These are the rapid HIV/AIDS and syphilis tests, and hepatitis B and C tests. Many such tests were also conducted by our team on the invitation of the “Health Initiative” Foundation and the “Food, Not War” Foundation. In addition, we organized two initiatives related to raising the awareness of young people about HIV/AIDS and risks of sexually transmitted disease. The sessions were held with adolescents accommodated in a dormitory, run by “Concordia”.
Our main partners in the fight for alleviating the consequences of diseases and health issues among homeless people remain the Second and the Fifth Multi-profile Hospitals in Sofia. We also receive assistance from the Regional Anti-tuberculosis Dispensary and the Pulmonary Hospital “St. Sofia” in relation to the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis.
In 2019 we also received regular donations of food, clothing and hygiene materials from Raiffeisen Bank Bulgaria, Experian Bulgaria, IPSOS Bulgaria, AIG Bulgaria, DXC Technology Bulgaria, Hewlett Packard Bulgaria, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Evelina Nalbantova [Head]
+359 88 692 3216