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Orthodox Church interferes, obstructs homeless shelter initiative

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Wednesday, November 20
Tbilisi Mayor’s office is going to construct shelters for the homeless people. Mamuka Katsarava, Head of Social and Cultural Services of Tbilisi City Hall, stated that the problem of homeless people is very painful in Georgia these days.

“We are planning to work in two directions. One of them is a social house, which is a far more complicated issue, because it requires the preparation of a legal framework base. The second issue refers to the homeless. We want to make a shelter for them. We are now working intensively on those issues,” stated Katsarava.

The same kind of homeless shelter project initiated by the NGO Identity has been cancelled. On October 23rd, Identity made a statement on their website about opening a homeless shelter in Tbilisi. After controversy developed around the issue on November 13th, Identity released an official statement and announced that the project had been cancelled and work on the shelter would not be continued.

According to Katsarava, Mayor’s office is going to have some consultations with NGOs, like Red Cross and Caritas. Identity also is among these NGOs. “It was our initiative to meet with the representatives of Identity, because they noted that they could give different recommendations,” he said, adding that the state and public will also be engaged in this process. Katsarava supposes that for completing the shelter system 1-2 years will be needed.

Meanwhile 19 NGOs published a statement on the Initiative of Identity. Among them are the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia), Article 42 of the Constitution, Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) and so on.

“We, the civil society organizations are confident that such initiatives are decisive in uniting the public and building peace in the society and condemn the campaign carried out by political officials and representatives of patriarchate against Identity. In view of this, we demand from the relevant state organs, an adequate response on the declared violence and threat, whoever the author could be.

Moreover, we urge the state to fulfill its obligations and to take care of setting up shelters for homeless within a reasonable time. We welcome any initiative of each individual or organizations in terms of the establishment of the shelter, appreciate support of the public defender’s office and the Ministry of Justice and declare that construction of the initially declared shelter will continue. In the nearest future, civil society organizations, in cooperation with Identity will submit the action plan for resolution of the problem of homeless individuals,” reads their joint statement released on November 16.