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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Homeless Muscovites Find Shelter

MTAlexandra Krylova, a pensioner, preparing a meal in her room at the shelter Thursday.
Alexandra Krylova, 63, has been homeless since she and her husband sold their Moscow apartment in 1993 and invested the money in a pyramid scheme, which collapsed.

Until last year, Krylova lived with her sister in Tver. But then the sister died, and she and her husband, both pensioners, found themselves on the street.

Krylova then had a stroke of good luck. She found out that as former Muscovites, she and her husband could move into one of Moscow's eight homeless shelters. She now shares a room with five other homeless women with similar life stories and hopes that the city will one day give her and her husband a permanent residence.

"I have worked all my life and hope that I have earned the right to live my last days in a corner of my own," she said Thursday in her room in the 450-bed Lyublino shelter in southern Moscow.

The eight shelters have beds for up to 1,600 people.

City officials and police estimate there are 30,000 homeless people in Moscow. The Social-Economic Studies Research Institute puts the figure much higher, at 100,000 in the capital and 4 million across the country.

About 7,000 people join the ranks of the homeless each year in Moscow, and most of them come from the regions, according to French relief organization Medicins Sans Frontieres, which this week marked the 10th anniversary of a program to assist the city's homeless.

The program's coordinator, Alexei Nikiforov, said most homeless people are healthy and able to work.

"We have been here 10 years and have seen 70,000 homeless people in these years, so we make judgments," Nikiforov said.

He lamented that Russia lacks laws protecting citizens who find themselves homeless due to unfortunate circumstances.

Moscow is on the right track in providing for homeless Muscovites, but it should also take into account those from the regions, Nikiforov said.

MSF, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, operates a medical office in southern Moscow for homeless people. Doctors receive 60 patients per day, arranging hospitalizations and vaccinations when necessary.

"Many homeless who apply to Moscow clinics get turned down," Nikiforov said.