Rīga plans to push homeless shelters away from center

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Rīga City Council plans to transfer homeless shelters from the center to Iļģuciems in order to relieve the center from the homeless population. This could cost around a million euros. The neighborhood association is strongly against the idea, Latvian Television reported July 23.

Riga City Council is considering transferring shelters and sobering-up facilities from the vicinity of the Central Market to Iļģuciems. As a possible location, the council considers an empty lot next to a building on Daugavgrīvas Street 67.

The resident association of the neighborhoods of Dzirciems and Iļģuciems is puzzled by why the City Council has had such an idea. “As an association, we have very actively launched our activities by offering the new Riga City Council a variety of measures promoting civil initiative, and this is suddenly the case. It seems that the various structures of the Riga City Council are not talking among themselves,” said Agrita Kiopa, member of the association's board.

The association categorically objects to the new idea by pointing out that there is already one shelter, several social houses and the Iļģuciems women's prison. Kiopa said that the site examined by the municipality was located in an important historic district.

Building a shelter and sobering-up center would damage the neighborhood's attractiveness, said Kiopa: “It's hard to imagine why anyone would want to develop their business next to a shelter and sobering-up center, why anyone would want to invest in residential buildings and transforming old industrial buildings.”

The head of the Social Affairs Committee of Riga City Council Viesturs Kleinbergs said that the municipality is considering relocating the shelter currently in the vicinity of the Central Market, because there are too many services offered in the current area.  Kleinbergs said that it had previously been proposed to transfer the shelter to the distant suburbs of Riga, but this idea has been abandoned. “This service should be relatively close to the city center, so that, for example, the local government police who bring these people to the accommodation should not take the route, let us say, from Jugla to Bolderāja,” Kleinbergs said.

The construction of a new shelter and sobering-up center could cost around a million euros. However, Kleinbergs acknowledged that the transfer of these facilities will not fully solve the problems.

In response to the association's objections, the politician said the public must be empathetic to the problem. The Association of Dzirciems and Iļģuciems neighborhoods has a different view.

“The problem exists, and it also needs to be addressed at the center. I think it should not be addressed at the expense of other neighborhoods because we are not some 101st kilometer, where we will transfer the homeless to some neighborhood away from the center,” said Didzis Juško, a member of the organization's board.

Mārtiņš Moors, deputy director of the Welfare Department of Riga City Council, said that it is necessary to re-plan the surrounding environment of the institutions by moving the shelter and the sobering-up center. “As long as there are attractive objects in the neighborhood people will still gather there. There needs to be a complex solution throughout the urban environment of the center,” Moors said.

Other possible places where shelters could be relocated are also being examined. The final decision is expected to be taken with the adoption of next year's municipal budget.

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