Yerevan boarding house no. 1 serves 60 homeless and 250 elderly people. All the places are full year round.
“Even if we have 1,000 spots, it still wouldn’t be enough,” said no. 1 boarding house director Armen Gyurjyan, who said that the homeless come to their doorstep through different ways — calls from the population or police, referrals from appropriate bodies. Sometimes the homeless person comes to them himself and asks to be put up.
“There are many, many applicants, while places are strictly limited. The situation is particularly worse in the winter months, when the number of homeless increases sharply. The reason is the cold; people have no place to seek shelter and are forced to come to us. It’s comparatively easier in the summer months: due to the warmer weather, many of them take care of their needs and don’t appeal to us. As a result, during these months there are enough places,” he said.
In his opinion, this year their burden was significantly alleviated since city hall intervened and opened a similar agency which provides services to and houses the homeless. Gyurjyan noted that at their shelter, the law stipulates that a person can stay for 60 days.
“There’s no age restriction — we have homeless people here from 17 to 63 years old. Those who are older than 63 and receive a state pension as defined by law, automatically move from the homeless shelter to a seniors’ home. The situation is harder in the case of the youth since part of our obligations is to provide them with work during the 60 days [that they’re there],” he said.
The shelter director explained that they work with the Nubarashen pig farm and for the large part, those staying at Yerevan boarding house no. 1 work at this farm.
“We also intend to establish a farm, which will create jobs for the homeless staying with us,” he said.
Those who come to this shelter undergo several medical examinations, are checked for diseases, receive new clothing and are given food and a bed.
“Also available at our shelter are psychiatrist services, and every homeless person [admitted to our shelter] needs to undergo a psychological assessment. If there are any mental illnesses present, we call emergency services which then takes them to a mental health clinic,” Gyurjyan explained.
The shelter director affirmed that every homeless person is experiencing a serious internal drama, each has his sad story, and the more homeless, the more distressed destinies there are.
In the case of the elderly, however, the picture is completely different, he continued.
“They come to the seniors’ home on a ticket, which is provided by the Ministry Labor and Social Affairs. I find it hard to say whether they come of their own wishes or those of their children or relatives. There are cases when during admittance times, the children bring and leave their parents. In many cases, the elderly come without anyone’s assistance — on their own two feet, considering that it’s better to live in a seniors’ home than stay at home and become the cause of disputes and problems. The vast majority are men — nearly 60%,” he said.
Gyurjyan mentioned that they don’t restrict the rights of those who come and stay with them: they are free and can leave (or check out) whenever they want, circumvent the city and come back again.
“The elderly feel much better themselves, realizing deep down that by taking this step they have avoided various family conflicts and issues. But despite this, each of them secretly hopes that one day they will come take them home,” concluded Gyurjyan.