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Public Defender’s Statement on Measures to be Taken to Provide Certain Medical Services and Shelter for Homeless Persons

The Public Defender is responding to the issue of provision of shelter to people living on the streets during the state of emergency, as well as for the necessity of smooth delivery of medical services to persons enrolled in state programmes on tuberculosis, hepatitis C, dialysis and kidney transplantation.

Unfortunately, there is no unified database on homeless people in the country or even local databases in some of the municipalities. No targeted programmes are being implemented in 19 municipalities across the country to help the homeless.[1] In the absence of accurate statistics, it is vital to identify homeless people on the street in a timely manner and to provide them with shelter.

Due to the lack of housing, the homeless are deprived of the opportunity to meet the requirements of the state of emergency (to observe the curfew, hygiene and isolation norms, to stay at home, etc.), which further endangers their life and health and increases the risk of spreading the disease.

In addition to the above, after the Government banned municipal transport across the country, those involved in the tuberculosis, hepatitis C, dialysis and kidney transplantation programmes found themselves in a difficult situation (as far as we are informed, up to 2400 are involved in the tuberculosis programme, about 2500 people are involved in the dialysis and kidney transplantation programme and 71169 people are involved in the hepatitis C elimination programme as of February). They have to periodically go to medical centers to get necessary drugs, but for many of them this is now a problem due to the ban on public transport.

The problem is even more acute with patients who need to go to specific medical facilities according to a strictly predetermined schedule (on average three times a week) in order to receive medical care. In many cases, these facilities are quite far from their place of residence.

In addition, special attention should be paid to the needs of beneficiaries of state programmes living in the occupied territories in order to ensure their unhindered use of medical services.

In the current situation, the Public Defender of Georgia calls on the relevant bodies to take measures as soon as possible in order to solve the above-mentioned problems. The measures are as follows:

  • The Government of Georgia and local self-government bodies should act in a timely and coordinated manner to identify those, who need help in transportation in order to receive services under the TB, hepatitis C and dialysis programmes and to take them to relevant medical facilities and/or supply them with drugs on site so as not to endanger their lives and health;
  • Local municipalities, in coordination with the Patrol Police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, should proactively identify and register homeless people living on the streets in administrative units;
  • The municipal shelters or social houses for homeless people that can accommodate more people should fully utilize their resources, including by accommodating the homeless persons who do not meet the statutory criteria for being admitted to the shelter (for example, if they are not registered within a specific municipality, etc.);
  • Relevant buildings with necessary living conditions should be allocated through coordination between the local municipalities and the Coordination Council on Coronavirus, including by considering the possibility of cooperation with the private sector, to temporarily accommodate the homeless persons who cannot be referred to the above-mentioned shelters and houses.

[1] See the reports of the Public Defender of Georgia on the Situation of Human Rights and Freedoms in 2019, 2018 and 2017, Chapter on the Right to Adequate Housing, available at: http://ombudsman.ge/geo/saparlamento-angarishebi (last accessed on 03.04.2019).

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