IRAN

Iran sees first major charity set up to help homeless, addicts

 Up until recently, there were no organised charities focused on helping the homeless in Tehran, where about 10,000 people live on the streets. However, in the past few years, one organisation has emerged that not only feeds the homeless, but also helps those addicted to drugs. And now it’s inspiring others to set up similar programmes in different cities.

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A homeless woman on the streets of Tehran. All photos courtesy of The Traceless Rising organisation.

 

 

Up until recently, there were no organised charities focused on helping the homeless in Tehran, where about 10,000 people live on the streets. However, in the past few years, one organisation has emerged that not only feeds the homeless, but also helps those addicted to drugs. And it’s now inspiring others to set up similar programmes in different cities.

 

Every Tuesday night, volunteers from the organisation “The Traceless Rising” –Iran’s biggest charity for the homeless

– hand out hot meals in the streets of Tehran. Before each meal, volunteers and homeless people form a circle and say prayers. Since the majority of the homeless that the volunteers encounter are also addicted to drugs, they hand out phone numbers that they can call if they want help getting clean.

 

Volunteers and homeless people form a prayer circle before meals. 

 

The Traceless Rising currently has 3,000 volunteers, some of whom lived on the streets themselves in the past. According to the organisation, they have helped 379 homeless drug addicts through recovery in the past year.

"Right now, there are very few organisations that focus on the homeless"

Akbar Rajabi is the head of the Traceless Rising organisation.

 

The idea for this goes back almost a decade. I went to a big family get-together, and afterwards we had a lot of extra food left over. We decided to go around Tehran and distribute what amounted to about 25 meals to the needy living on the streets. This became a passion: to go out every month or every week and distribute food. And in 2009, we formed a real organisation.

 

Today, we distribute 5,000 meals every week, with volunteers doing everything from preparing the food to distributing it. We make friends with the homeless and gain their trust; from there, we can try to help them recover from addiction and find shelter for them. We’ve created a drug rehabilitation centre, called ‘The House of Hope’. Any homeless person who wants to kick their drug habit can undergo a 21-day treatment programme and then live in the house. There is no limit, but they usually stay a few months, during which time they undergo work training and get help finding employment and reconnecting with their families. We have room for 200 men in this centre, and last year we also sheltered 22 women. [The city of Tehran also runs night-time shelters for the homeless, with a total capacity of 3,700.]

 

A volunteer brings food to a homeless person on the streets of Tehran.

 

During our time working with these people, we have encountered homeless people who come from different social backgrounds. For example, we came across one homeless man whom we later found out is the son of a famous television actress. Another homeless boy we helped reconnect with his family had a highly educated father. That being said, the majority of the homeless are members of the lower strata of society.

In Iran, various entities like the police and city councils are tasked with helping the homeless, but since this is not their primary goal, this doesn’t do much good. However, this problem is not just the responsibility of the government. Non-governmental organizations need to do more – and right now, there are very few that focus on the homeless.

 

Preparing for a food distribution.

 

What we fear most is not drugs, but that Iranian people will remain indifferent to the homeless – that’s the biggest danger. But some individuals are starting to organise similar volunteer groups to distribute food in different cities, so I remain hopeful.