Thursday, 20 September

Escaping a Bitter Winter: Armenia’s Only Homeless Shelter Provides Refuge to 108

The body of a 38-year old man, frozen to death, was found near a cafe in Yerevan on Artsakh Avenue. It appears the man had no permanent abode, but slept in an abandoned building.

There’s only one homeless shelter for people to go to in all of Armenia – the one run by the Hans Christian Kofoed Charitable Foundation in Vardashen, a town in Yerevan province.

Three years ago, Hetq wrote that there were an estimated 1,000 homeless in Yerevan alone. There is no indication that this number has gone down since.

Currently, there are 108 people staying warm at the Hans Christian shelter. Many are senior citizens with no family on the outside.

“I have no other family. By luck or by accident, I’ve wound up here,” says 38-year old resident Garegin Kaladjyan. He lives in the shelter with his mother Aghavni.

Garegin moved here in December 2013, when the homeless shelter in the village of Haghtanak was moved to Vardashen and combined with the Danish-Armenian Hans Christian Kofoed Charitable Foundation.

Mr. Kaladjyan sometimes gets bit parts in films and TV. His mother doesn’t work.

“I’m in love with this woman who can’t see. I would just like to ask if there might be a benefactor out there who could allot me some small space where the two of us could live,” Garegin says. He then calls on relatives in the U.S. to assist him. The man says he only stays at the shelter because of his mother.

Hasmik Daveyan lives at the shelter with her 18-year old daughter Ani. Hasmik says her husband, an Artsakh War vet died, she and her daughter wound up on the street.

Shavarsh Khachatryan, Director of the Hans Christian Kofoed Charitable Foundation, says that the shelter is fairly well funded, in equal shares by Armenia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Danish side.

The Armenian government provides 56 million AMD, an amount that covers food, utilities and wages at the shelter.

While Mr. Khachatryan says the shelter was envisaged to house 100, it could, in a stretch accommodate up to 150.

“We mustn’t let our people die of cold outside. That’s why we’ve taken additional steps to obtain beds and mattresses. We have 108 residents now, even though plans were for 100. That’s to say our Danish colleagues pick up the tab for the difference. There shouldn’t be any homeless out on the streets in Armenia during the cold winter,” says Mr. Khachatryan.

The director recalls that two years ago, also due to the biting cold, many sought refuge at the shelter.

He says that some of the residents, mostly over fifty, can sometimes find work in construction and at bakeries. During the summer, some get work cleaning municipal parks.

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