Homeless Individuals in Belgrade Shelter No Longer Subject to COVID Restrictions

Press Release by the Members of the Network for Combatting Homelessness

Following the unnecessary insistence on COVID measures and the passing of the epidemiological justifications, the Shelter for Adults and Elderly in Belgrade has lifted all requirements and is now welcoming homeless individuals without any restrictions.

The inexplicable decisions made by epidemiologists at the City Institute of Public Health and social welfare inspections have led to the long-standing enforcement of mandatory negative antigen testing and permanent isolation for beneficiaries. Permanent isolation entails a prohibition on any going out for walks, shopping, and participating in other activities.

Contrary to the valid guidelines of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs and contrary to the practice of all other social welfare institutions in Serbia, the Institute and inspection in question have for years insisted that access to accommodation services to new beneficiaries and those already using the services of the Shelter in Kumodraška Street be conditional upon the implementation of COVID measures.

These negative and harmful practices have been abolished following the joint reaction of the A 11 Initiative, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and Psychosocial Innovation Network (PIN), members of the Network for Combatting Homelessness.

We consider the positive outcome of our joint efforts, namely the cessation of this institution’s insistence on restrictive measures, to be of utmost importance. While the primary (and only acceptable) objective is to grant Shelter beneficiaries freedom of movement, we cannot overlook the significant damage caused by continuing to enforce outdated and unjustified COVID measures such as isolating individuals with negative test results.

The rules were modified only after the A 11 Initiative, ADRA, and PIN brought the issue to the attention of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality, prompting recommendations to be sent to the Shelter and other relevant authorities to review their restrictive and discriminatory practice that was not in line with the current guidelines of domestic and international health organizations, or serve the best interest of the beneficiaries of this social welfare service.

The prolonged four-year duration it took to secure the freedom of movement and unrestricted access to accommodation for Shelter beneficiaries in this institution is deemed disheartening by the Network for Combatting Homelessness.

Homelessness is a pressing issue that many of our institutions fail to tackle in a responsible systemic manner. Therefore, the Network for Combatting Homelessness will persist in highlighting the shortcomings in the system and behaviors that jeopardize the rights and welfare of the people of Serbia – which should be an area of concern for all entities, especially those involved in social welfare system.

The signatories are members of the Network for Combatting Homelessness: A 11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights, Adventist Development and Relief Agency – ADRA, Psychosocial Innovation Network – PIN, Liceulice, Solidarity Kitchen, Klikaktiv – Center for Social Policy Development.

In Belgrade, 15 April 2024