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Icelanders in Denmark Come to the Aid of Homeless Man

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Icelanders in Denmark Come to the Aid of Homeless Man

Copenhagen, Denmark

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Members of the ‘Icelanders in Copenhagen’ Facebook page have joined hands in completely furnishing the new apartment of a previously homeless Icelandic man in the Danish capital city.

Björg Magnúsdóttir has been the unnamed man’s translator and confidante for over seven years. She decided to appeal to local Icelanders for help following the man being offered a new apartment by the city authorities.

“He had nothing, is on disability allowance in Denmark, which is around ISK 120,000 a month (EUR 855/USD 977) and 80 percent of it goes in rent,” she explained to Vísir. The man received his own home two months ago, for the first time in his life, following a two-year fight by social services to secure the man a permanent place to live. He has been living in a homeless shelter for seven years.

Björg first met the man when she was called to a homeless shelter as an interpreter. “He is very special,” she says. “Unlike anyone else I have interpreted for through the ages, which amounts to about 50 to 60 people. I needed to tune myself in to him, linguistically speaking, I couldn’t be as formal as I usually am when interpreting.”

She explains that the man has a limited grasp of the Icelandic language, but speaks little or no Danish. She therefore built up a special relationship with the man and has been interpreting for him for over seven years. He is a lively, thoughtful, kind and grateful person, she says. “Totally lovely.”

Two months ago, the man was finally offered a flat in a pleasant part of Copenhagen, but had nothing to put in it. It came with a fridge and a cooker, and somebody had given him a very thin mattress. Other than that, all he had were his most prized possessions: a PlayStation and television.

In addition to getting hundreds of ‘Likes’, dozens of private messages and an apartment full of furniture and accessories, the Facebook appeal has also led to long-lost friends and relatives from Iceland being able to get in touch with the man. One has even booked to come and visit him.

The man has been on the streets for all his adult life. He left school at 13 then spent a period at sea and has been on the streets ever since. He is in poor physical and mental health due to drug and alcohol addiction, which he completely quit a decade ago.

Although he is not fit for work, the man is now enrolled in a physical fitness program and is getting help from social services to engage with society; including things like going to the post office or the pharmacy.

Björg says her friend is “extremely happy and grateful” for the kindness of strangers.

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