A joint statement of civil society organizations about the initiative of NGO Identoba

The obligation of the State to provide a person with the right to proper accommodation is often violated in Georgia. The state policy of resolving the extreme form of poverty – homelessness – has been non-existent till now. Such people can’t even get the status of a socially vulnerable person from the State, because the law requires that they indicate a place of permanent residence. During the past years, the media regularly disseminated information about homeless people who had frozen to death in winter. In a situation where the State fails to fulfill its obligations towards homeless people, NGO Identoba decided to create a shelter for them, which, among other things, would aim at accumulating experience and sharing it with the State in the future. The shelter would offer such people accommodation, food, psychological, medical and legal assistance, and employment.

It is sad that senior officials of the State did not support this initiative, opposed it, and even made incompetent statements about it. The statement of the Head of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Parliament, Eka Beselia (Kronika, 12/11, 20:35 min), according to which the right to open a shelter is reserved only for the State, does not correspond with the truth, because Georgian and international law is not familiar with such a restriction.

We think that the comments made by the Head of the Human Rights Committee (“If someone wants to do good deeds, they must do these good deeds without breaking the law” and “I’m sorry, but we have order in this country”), in addition to being legally unfounded, give rise to other questions: it is unclear why, in all the uproar that followed Identoba’s initiative, the person with such a highly responsible status criticizes the initiative itself and why the authorities keep silent in response to all the other things. It is a sad fact that no one from the authorities has expressed their opinion about ideas declared by representatives of the Church, such as creating a religious faction in the Georgian Parliament; appointing a representative of the Church as the Public Defender; establishing the Church’s copyright on doing good deeds, etc.

The deliberation of the Minister of Health, Labor and Social Affairs, Davit Sergeenko, that Identoba is violating two international conventions is also devoid of a legal basis. In addition, it was out of place to talk about the issues of deinstitutionalization and “homeless children”, whereas the initiative of Identoba was only oriented to homeless people and families. The Minister has yet to explain why he misled the population.

The position of the Orthodox Church, according to which Identoba must be prohibited from taking part in the resolution of the problems of the homeless, also causes concern. “We will spare no one,” says the statement of the Secretary of the Patriarchy. The official statement of the Patriarchy reiterates that Identoba intends to “establish a shelter for homeless children”, which is equal to accusing the organization of something it has never intended to do. The Patriarchy is unable to substantiate either rationally or legally why Identoba must not help people. The targeted attempts of the religious organization to expel NGO Identoba and the LGBT community in general from public space, subject citizens of the country to physical reprisals, and threaten them with destruction is alarming. By doing this, the Orthodox Church once more infringes on the universally recognized rights. And the State responds to all this with irresponsible silence.

We, civil society organizations, firmly believe that such initiatives are very important in the process of uniting the society and peace-building. We declare that:

  1. we condemn the campaign conducted by holders of political office and representatives of the Patriarchy against Identoba and demand that the corresponding structures respond adequately to the threats of violence, whoever they may have come from;
  2. we demand that the State fulfill the obligations it has taken and start making arrangements to create public shelters for homeless people in a timely manner;
  3. we welcome the initiative of all persons and organizations to establish a shelter, as well as the support of the Public Defender and the Minister of Justice of Georgia; we state that the construction of the shelter that was initially intended is going to continue. In the nearest future, we, civil society organizations, in cooperation with Identoba, will present a working plan for resolving the issues of homeless people.