It took us more than an hour to find the wood shack in the town of Metzamor that Artour Stepanyan and his large family call home.
Even though we had an address, local residents we asked for directions didn’t know where the house was located.
Artour, his wife Arevik, and their six children live in this shack on the outskirts of town. Four of the kids are from a former woman that Artour had been married to.
Mr. Stepanyan told us that he fought in the Artsakh War, participating in the battles for Shushi and elsewhere. Now, he complains, that the government has forsaken him.
Artour claims that last year, when he applied for a disability pension, the committee chairman demanded a 50,000 AMD bribe. Angered by the affront, Artour says he stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
The family now survives on the monthly disability pensions two of their children receive (18,700 AMD apiece), and a poverty allowance of 61,200 AMD.
Arevik said that she wrote to the Armavir Provincial Administration six months ago requesting additional assistance. Her letter was forwarded to the Metzamor Municipality, where her request was rejected.
The municipality has told her that they don’t have the funds necessary to assist her but that help will be forthcoming when the resources are available.
Tzaghanoush Grigoryan, who runs the Department of Health and Social Security at the Armavir Regional Administration, told Hetq that they are doing all they can to assist the family, but that they are in no position to solve the family’s housing problem.
Since the shack isn’t hooked up to the gas supply network and wood is too expensive for winter heating purposes, the family tries to stay warm with an electric heater. Arevik says that their average monthly electricity bill comes to 35,000 AMD.
She cringes at the thought of a rise in electricity rates.
In the heat of the summer, however, there are other risks the family faces. Given the arid surroundings, natural pests like scorpions, tarantulas and wasps invade the property.
Arevik says that when the sun goes down, she has to keep her eyes peeled to prevent the creepy crawlers from getting inside.
She has the six kids to think about.