Plight of Homeless Heard in Knesset

YERUSHALAYIM (Hamodia Staff) -

The Israeli government stated on Tuesday that there are between 800 and 900 people living on the streets nationwide, though a social NGO asserted the figure was actually much higher.

The statistics were presented by Maria Podgaezky, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s National Inspector for homeless persons at the Knesset Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee.

Podgaezky said that of the 800-900 homeless, 450 receive services and treatment from local units. Lack of shelter is not their only source of suffering. Of those living on the streets, 65% suffer from substance abuse, 23% are mentally ill, and 35% suffer from physical illnesses.

However, a representative from Elem, an organization that assists at-risk youth in Israel, contested the ministry’s figures, claiming that in fact there are far more than 900 homeless people in the country.

MK Zehava Gal-on (Meretz), who called for the meeting, said that the stipend of 1,000 shekels monthly given to assist them in finding proper shelter was inadequate.

“With this sum one could maybe [afford to] live in the gutter,” said Gal-on.

Committee chairman MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) agreed. “It’s enough with these games. People living on the streets need a roof and not limited benefits.”

The largest number of homeless people is found in Tel Aviv, followed by Yerushalayim, Haifa, and Ashdod, and 55% of the homeless are from the former Soviet Union.

The ministry has 16 units operating to assist homeless people in cities across the country, eight of them providing overnight shelter.