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No Place to Call Home


Czech Republic.

Homeless people are one of the most vulnerable groups in Czech society. The current freezing temperatures, COVID-19 lockdowns and ensuing restricted movement of people, closed businesses, shops and more, have contributed to people without homes becoming even more at risk than before. Their already limited access to resources is even more exacerbated.

There are services that provide short-term and long-term accommodation, food and material assistance, or field services. However these services were closed during the COVID-19 first wave.

Food Not Bombs is an NGO with a chapter based in Pilsen. Volunteers worked every Sunday in front of the Pilsen Museum to distribute food, clothes, facemasks and sometimes cigarettes to the homeless. I took part in these distributions and asked a few people why they were on the street and what is like to be homeless.

Ales (39) has lived on the streets 8 years. Covid-19 made his life uncomfortable. “The charities closed, I had nowhere to take a bath or even go to the toilet. Of course I could go somewhere in the park, behind a tree. But I want to do this as a human. Food Not Bombs in Pilsen is the only organisation that feeds me once a week, brings clothes, face masks and sometimes also cigarettes”.
Stano Dimitrov is from Bulgaria, he came to the Czech Republic for work, but Covid-19 changed his plans. “Foreigners like myself were the first to be fired from work. In addition, I lost my passport, and the new one costs almost two thousand Czech Crowns (about USD 100) and I do not have that money. I’ve been on the streets for six month now, I don’t want to live like this, but I do not know how to get out of this situation”.
Jakub Jakub is from Prague. He is graphic designer. He came to Pilsen to see his ex-girlfriend. “My backpack was stolen, I had a laptop in it and all my documents with ID. Without a ID, it’s impossible to get a job, and now this Covid. I was planning to go to Spain, Covid spoiled my plans.” Jakub sleeps in a tent, he feels depressed and has started to drink.
PT (Peetee), 37. PT has been on streets since he was 29 years old. “I like my freedom and I like to sleep in a tent. I used to work in Dai, a company that manufactures and sells plastic components, accessories and equipment for industries. When Covid “arrived” the company closed and so I’m out of work and without health insurance. Every Sunday Food Not Bombs in Pilsen feed me. What I do during the week is foraging or “faruji” (going down – is expression between homeless) – looking for food in the trash-bins.”
Boris (28) is from Slovakia, he is three weeks on the streets. “My girlfriend with whom I was with for four and a half years, kicked me out from the apartment. She changed the lock and all my belongings stayed there. Furthermore I lost my job due to Covid”. Boris was helped by Diocesan Caritas Pilsen (Caritas is the helping hand of the Church) with clothes. Also, his former employee would like him back to work, but Boris feels he is not able to go back to work, he goes through mental collapse and mentally exhaustion.
Ruda called Rudies (43) is from Slovakia, he used to work in Tachov, from where he moved to Pilsen, thinking of more working opportunities in bigger city than in a small town. “Unfortunately, Covid and the lockdown ruined my plans. The city of Pilsen opened a shelter for the homeless, where I moved. I lived in a tent, we had three warm meals a day, but in the summer the shelter was closed. We were given tents, sleeping bags and my friends and I moved to a nearby park. I don’t know what will happen next. There are not jobs anymore”
Kaca (42) was kicked out of her apartment. “I am on streets three months. I signed some paper, some documents which I did not understand. I guess that was mistake…and because of that I am on the streets now.”
Honza Kulhavy (31) is 5 months on streets. “Why am I homeless… I’m an alcoholic, when I find a job, I am fired for drinking. I’ve been in alcoholism treatment program twice, but I always went back to alcohol.” Honza speaks fluent English, and was an English-Czech translator for nuclear power plants.
Milan (57) has lived on the streets for ten years, he receives a monthly pension of 11,000 Czech Crowns (USD 510), and lives in a shed thanks to the generosity of a priest. “I worked in England for two and a half years, but when my mother was seriously sick and was dying, I came back. Since then I lived on the streets, but I don’t live under a bridge. You know, I was lucky Martin the priest is my angel who let me lives for free in his shed. My pension is not enough to pay a rent and food.”


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Iva Zimova

Iva Zimova, Czech and Canadian born in 1956

. I first developed my photographic eye in Montreal, where I studied photography at Dawson College. But Dawson Collage teaches commercial photography, and in any case I found that I was more comfortable wandering the streets with my camera than being locked up in a studio.

 Montreal’s streets were not enough for me, however, so I started to travel to different places. I became resolved to document the lives of people who are persecuted or neglected. In 1998, during the war in Kosovo, I encountered the Czech NGO, People in Need, and since then I have contributed to their efforts with my work. It’s very important for me to be involved in the environment that I am photographing. To be accepted by the people I photograph and to become one of them is a part of what I do. This takes time, but it allows me to be a privileged witness of social occasions and rituals that would otherwise be off-limits: births, baptisms, spiritual ceremonies, weddings and funerals. I always carry my cameras (one digital and one film camera) with me in my backpack. The pack becomes a part of my body and if I don't have it on me, I feel like I'm missing something. To have my cameras with me at all times gives me the opportunity to photograph anything that I find interesting, at anytime. I am represented by Panos Pictures.”

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