When you hear the word “homeless” you immediately imagine a mangy, as it often happens, drunk and smelly person with a swollen face. Such a character often evokes a feeling of disgust and embarrassment. Reality bites. Having become an integral part of our modern everyday routine, homeless people have become a shadow and, therefore, do not make passers-by help or just talk.
Homelessness or rough sleeping is a phenomenon blighting both developed and developing worlds. This grievous problem entails certain social categories of people without a regular dwelling because they cannot afford or are otherwise unable to maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing. Homelessness can be objective or subjective, situational or chronic, forced or voluntary and induced by global, regional and local factors.
People who find themselves living on the street due to various circumstances have no access to sanitary and medical aid, lack of opportunity to apply to clinics for assistance because of the difficult life situation. On-the-street people experience significant physical and psychological stress, easily pick diseases, become disabled, commit suicide or die unnoticed.
Homelessness is not a disease of the body, but an acute social disease of cold hearts.
However, the world is no good without good people who are highly compassionate about people and always ready to give a helping hand to the homeless or those, who have fallen to hard times.
I had a chance to meet one of “the living angels” after I had watched a regular show on TV called “The Man on the Map”, which told about Evgeny Kosovskikh, a small person who made a big difference in his city, region, the whole country and beyond.
More than three years ago, Evgeny, known also as Doctor Zhenya, founded “Other Medicine” charity project in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, located to the east of the Ural Mountains, Russia. He was a student of the medical college when he decided to provide medical care to the homeless.
“When I went to work on the street, I had no such goal to change everything at once. I believed that one out of a hundred would definitely return to normal life” as he tells in one of his interviews.
Every Saturday, on his day off from study and work, Evgeny went on his own by his car to the gathering points of the homeless. At first, there were few patients. They took those visits with suspicion. Eventually more people came for Doctor Zhenya’s aid. They had various problems: some caught cold, others had a severe burn or frostbite, serious wounds or intolerable toothache. But each patient unveiled their aching hearts, which he tried to heal with his kind words. It worked. He still gently treats his patients calling them “wards”, addresses them exclusively by name. They give him their shy smiles in return. They understand and appreciate that care they are provided with.
Soon Evgeny’s project attracted like-minded people to join the team of volunteers. Donations helped them to rent a small van. Now they proceeded as a team to provide assistance, give out medicine, personal hygiene items, toiletries, food, warm things to the homeless and people in need.
The team uploaded pictures and videos, financial reports and stories of their patients in their e-group.
We, members of the “Other Medicine” online community, followed the news and updates. It is always incredible to know that a homeless person is on the mend, finds a job or returns to a normal life. As Doctor Zhenya says, “my soul is filled with joy when you see that the patient’s leg or arm is healing, nothing threatens his life, or it changes for the better. Oh, man, I’m flying high!”
Those visits are just a small part of the huge workscope volunteers do every day under the umbrella of the project. It’s required to to purchase medicine, sanitary items, essentilals, prepare everything, coordinate transport and resources.
Last summer Evgeny graduated from medical college with honors, published his book “Other Medicine”, based on the facts of his biography and stories of his on-the-street friends. I was entirely pleased to receive a firsthand copy of the book, signed by the author. There’s not a single line in the book to leave any heart untouched.
Evgeny has also obtained street medicine experience in the Czech Republic and Germany. And here is a new step – a trip to provide medical care to the village inhabitants in the mysterious Guatemala. Upon his return from the South America, Doctor Zhenya will continue working on the project and visit his patients regularly. They already miss him and are looking forward seeing him again.
Following “Other Medicine”, similar initiatives are exercised in the other Russian towns and cities, including Moscow, St.Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. The news about this project spread outside Russia quickly and currently it is supported not only by Russian, but also foreign volunteers verbally, emotionally and financially. They eagerly send parcels with medicine, packed meals, sanitary items, warm gloves and mittens, socks and scarves to the distant city of Chelyabinsk.
People may find themselves on the street not because of alcohol or drug addiction, sometimes circumstances drive them into a corner. Some people do not have strength to get out of the difficult situation, others are lack of courage to ask for help from relatives, friends and loved ones. Each of us, living on the sunny island of Cyprus, can turn around, stop and pay attention to someone “who has no one else to help.”
I sincerely believe that Doctor Zhenya may inspire at least a few people to cure of a staggering combination of indifference and sheer arrogance and help another person in a difficult life situation get up from the knees and get a second chance.
Author: Svetlana Garshina