In the past months, homeless people have repeatedly been denied access to the shelter in Lindargata, Reykjavík.
Demand for accommodation in the Lindargata Shelter for the Homeless (Gistiskýlið) has never been higher, according to RÚV. Yesterday, 35 men requested housing, but six of them were refused entry, because the shelter can only house a maximum of 29 men. There are 25 beds, but when demand is high, four mattresses can be added.
In the past few months, all beds have been occupied, and homeless men have frequently been turned away. Sveinn Allan Morthens, director of the shelter, believes solutions for the homeless must be reconsidered. Part of the problem, he says, is that some have begun to regard the shelter as their home. He told RÚV that once the men begin to view this as their residence, then there is very little room for newcomers. “First and foremost, this is an emergency shelter. This is not a home,” he explained.
Residents of Reykjavík have priority access to the shelter. Legal residents of other municipalities, such as Kópavogur and Garðabær, are turned away when the place is full. Between 30 and 50 percent of those who take advantage of the shelter are foreigners, most of them Polish, with legal residence in Reykjavík. According to Sveinn, these are men who came here for work. Following the economic crash, they have lost their jobs and homes and battled alcoholism. They have no place to stay and it’s hard for them to seek treatment, since no treatment is offered by Polish-speaking people and these men typically do not have strong English skills.
Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir, chairwoman of the Reykjavík Welfare Board supports Sveinn’s view in a RÚV interview. She maintains the care and services offered by the city are good, but preventive measures and follow-ups are lacking. She expresses hope that a team formed a year ago will manage to improve the conditions of the homeless in Reykjavík.