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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shelter Troubles Begin Anew After Official Cuts Off Power

Just as a dispute between city officials and the director of a shelter for homeless girls seemed to be settling down, matters took a turn for the worse Tuesday, when a fire inspection team reportedly disconnected electricity to the facility.

Alexander Ogorodnikov, director of the Island of Hope shelter in northwest Moscow, said tension over the shelter's future had lessened after a Tuesday meeting with police, social workers and representatives of a district city prosecutor's office charged with enforcing city regulations on children's homes.

But shortly after the meeting with city officials, a fireman from the eastern district fire supervision department switched off the home's electricity, despite a two-week extension granted to the shelter on meeting fire safety regulations, Ogorodnikov said.

Representatives of the fire supervision department could not be reached for comment.

The shelter, home to 12 girls, aged 8 to 18 years, has been the focus of a nine-month struggle between the city, which has claimed living conditions there are unsuitable, and Ogorodnikov, who has said city complaints mask a desire to gain control of the property.

The power shutdown is fresh evidence of official harassment, Ogorodnikov said. "If we don't have any electricity ... how can we feed the children?" he said. "And then they'll have to shut us down."

City representatives at the meeting said that their main concern was not closing Island of Hope, but turning it into an inhabitable building.

"The very fact that Island of Hope exists shows that the city is ready to work with [private] charitable organizations," said Tatyana Maksimova, head of the city police's adolescent affairs department. She said the city has repeatedly told Ogorodnikov what needs to be done to comply with city regulations, but added that the shelter has not yet even registered as a legal organization.

The twelve girls, aged 8 to 18 years, living in the shelter receive no regular schooling and have no easy access to medical care and psychiatrists.

While Ogorodnikov admits that the shelter has "a lot of problems," children at the Island of Hope are "much better off than in a train station," he said.

Ogorodnikov said he had not yet decided how to respond to a city proposal that the girls move temporarily into a summer camp or sanitorium until repair work on the shelter is complete, adding that the girls are afraid to leave.

"There has been no end [to the dispute], but we have agreed to continue talking, we understand each other better now," Ogorodnikov said.

"We have good will towards them

In principle, the city's adolescent rights commission should be able to provide necessary financing for the shelter, as well as access to teachers and doctors, she added.