For Hungary’s homeless population the Christmas period is about survival. Temperatures in Budapest average between -1 and 3 degrees but can fall as low as -20 when the Siberian High arrives. Outside the capital the situation is even more dramatic.
The Order of Malta’s volunteers working for its Hungarian Charity Service began their provision of care for the homeless in November. On an average day in the winter period Order of Malta staff assist 1,500 homeless people through its care services. In terms of emergency shelter, 200 beds are now available – up 110 from last year – for the needy with nowhere to go but the streets. In addition to this the Order of Malta has made arrangements with other institutions to provide shelter for those at risk of hypothermia. ‘Warm rooms’ run by the Order are an essential refuge for the homeless, and this year for the first time they are open the whole week through.
Beyond meeting the basic needs of homeless people including the provision of clothing, food, and medicines; the Order’s institutions also offer individual case-by-case care. A ‘crisis car’ service, overseen by a 24-hour operations centre, responds to emergency telephone calls from people with nowhere else to turn.