Though there is little data on homelessness in Armenia, existing research indicates that it is a serious problem affecting many Armenians. Homelessness is apparent across the country, especially in the capital city of Yerevan. However, more research is necessary to fully understand the gravity of homelessness in Armenia and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted it. Here are five facts about homelessness in Armenia.
5 Facts About Homelessness in Armenia
- There is no official data on homelessness in Armenia. In 2014, Hetq Online published an article estimating that 1,000 people are homeless in Yerevan. Homelessness does exist elsewhere in Armenia, but a lack of data on the topic implies that the issue is not getting the attention it needs. In light of the worldwide economic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, it seems likely that the problem has gotten worse since Hetq’s report in 2014.
- There is only one homeless shelter in Armenia. The shelter, called the Hans Christian Kofoed homeless shelter, has a capacity of approximately 100 people. When compared to the estimated number of those homeless in Armenia, it is clear that a single shelter is not meeting the country’s needs. Though the work of the Hans Christian Kofoed shelter is helpful, it is only able to house 10% of the Yerevan homeless population on any given night.
- Demands on the shelter fluctuate by season. An Armenian news outlet called Panorama.am reported that the demand for the shelter rises each September as homeless people seek protection from colder weather. The publication also explained that the homeless population has been increasing in recent years as a result of “poor social conditions and low wages of the people.” In light of the COVID-19 crisis and ongoing conflict at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, it is particularly important to monitor the growing rate of homelessness more closely.
- The Armenian government has no system for counting homeless persons. When the USSR broke down in 1991, Armenia gave up the registration system that previously helped it keep track of housed versus homeless individuals. This means there is no official way to know how many Armenians have no formal residence. As a result, homelessness in Armenia is largely undocumented.
- There are many factors that contribute to homelessness in Armenia. These factors include the fall of the USSR, the 1988 earthquake, an influx of refugees and landslides. From natural destruction to refugee crises, the issues causing homelessness in Armenia are important to recognize.
There are several organizations working to combat homelessness in Armenia. The Armenian Relief and Development Association has worked to create temporary shelters for homeless families and individuals. Similarly, the Armenia Fund’s Gyumri Housing Project works to secure housing for families in Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city. The project works to purchase and furnish apartments and give them to families experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.
Those who are homeless in Armenia suffer from a lack of shelters and other forms of relief, but they also suffer from invisibility. Uncounted and under-researched, they are largely unseen by the international community. Relief organizations provide crucial support, but more is necessary to make the suffering of Armenia’s homeless quantifiable and visible. What the world cannot see, count and understand, it cannot fix.
– Sophia Gardner