A Samaritan for the homeless

In Russe, on the Danube, 70 homeless have found a home and warmth

“The Samaritan saw this poor man, badly wounded, who had been thrown into the street” and he had compassion. His heart was opened, he had a human heart”. His humanity enabled him to draw near. These words of Pope Francis, a commentary on the renowned Gospel parable in one of homilies in the church of Santa Marta, are the daily compass in the shelter for the homeless “The Good Samaritan” in the Bulgarian city of Russe on the Danube. The property, opened to the homeless nine months ago by Caritas in collaboration with the municipal administration, is located in the premises of a former school. Albeit modest, the building is completely renovated and functional. The house is located in the district of the Roma. Martin Nikolov, head of the project, welcomes us with a smile: “This is a true”, geographic and existential “periphery”.Binding up the wounds, warming the hearts… Every day, along with four other young men, Nikolov continues to “bind up the wounds and warm the hearts” of about 70 homeless people who found hospitality there. In addition to hot meals, shelter and medical care, most importantly, in the home the homeless receive gestures of humanity, attention, someone ready to listen to their stories and problems. “We are the second home for the homeless in Bulgaria – the social worker told SIR – and we try to give people the human warmth that maybe in the long years in the streets they never received”. And the tenants of the “Good Samaritan” confirm this. Darinka, for example, is 48 years old. Five plastic bags was all she had when she came to the homeless shelter, along with two dogs. At first she didn’t want to enter the home because she would not be separated from the animals, which, she said, “had become my family”. I had worked as a seamstress – she said shyly, without revealing her surname, and understandably so – then the factory was closed. She said: “Living outside is very hard, especially for women. There ‘is so much crime and winter temperatures drop to minus twenty degrees. ” In fact, the Russian winter is particularly cold, and every year there are cases of deaths on the road because of the cold, while other people are brought to the hospital, and must undergo the amputation of fingers or frozen limbs. For this reason, Caritas has decided to implement the project.Christian witness. “The homeless – said Stefan Markov, director of the organization in Russe – are particularly vulnerable. They are also exposed to the humiliation of being turned away because unwanted”. “To stand beside those who have been rejected by society is our Christian duty”, added the bishop, Msgr.Petko Hristov. Raised in a poor family, bishop Hristov took the initiative to heart because, he said, “in the Year of the Faith there is no better way to bear Christian witness”.Velislav’s art studio. “In order to help everyone in view of their future integration into society – explains project leader Nikolov – we organize moments of sharing, outings, and currently also drawing classes”. Human contact, listening skills, personal accompaniment are the “added value” that every guest needs, as well as a bed, a hot meal and clean clothes. A visit to the atrium, which looks like a small art gallery, is a token of the success of the drawing classes. On display are models of Velislav, 51, fond of sculpture, who also has his own small studio on the top floor of the house. “I was the victim of a scam and so I lost my apartment”, he said. Then his wife left him, and, “with our son, she built a new life without me”. He added with a sad tone and pain in his eyes: “it’s very difficult to be alone”. Then he looked up and began to dream: “I would like one day to exhibit my works in the center of Sofia”. Others have simple dreams: to have their own caravan, as the Roma family of Anka and Andrej that found this accommodation and placed it in the courtyard of the “Good Samaritan”. Now Anka is happy because, she explained, “I can live with my son who was in another foster home”. To them the trailer is their hope for a new beginning.

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