Homeless Women in Belgrade

Homeless Woman in Belgrade

Most large cities around the world have their share of homeless people. Belgrade is no different. Some cities have more than others, and the bums may take on the character of the city streets: young bums with dogs and guitars, old bums possibly mutilated from the horrors of war, and in California, I’ve seen a bum holding a hand-made cardboard sign that reads, “I’m not gonna lie, I need money for beer”. But in Belgrade, the bums were of a completely different type. They were women. Yes, nearly every bum I saw begging on the streets in Belgrade was an old woman, though I did see a very beautiful young woman, maybe 25, with a brand newborn baby in her arms, crying out for a few coins. This is the ultimate desperation. Who knows what stories are behind these individuals? This is indeed a sobering sight.
In the US, we have many homeless, but I think nearly all the ones I’ve ever seen were men. But in Belgrade, the situation was reversed with hardly any homeless men, but it was quite common to see a homeless woman sleeping, begging, roaming the streets.
Why is this? Does anyone know? In the US, is it because people feel more sorry for women and more likely to help them out? Is it because women are more likely to use social services here than men? Is it because they are more prideful and don’t like to beg? Is it because we have battered women’s shelters for women, but no equivalent for men? In Belgrade, is it because men have other means of making money, one step up from begging? Perhaps selling rabbits on the street for a few dinars? Doesn’t Belgrade have social services for these people? For a country so close to its socialist/communist past, you’d think there would be programs in place to help these people.
Something to ponder…

Man selling rabbits on the street in Belgrade

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7 thoughts on “Homeless Women in Belgrade

  1. I can’t agree there are more women begging than men. As for the girl and child, I guess she was Roma (Gypsy). They are outnumbering any other beggers. There are programs to help them, find them homes, buy them flats, build them big container like homes, etc… But, many of them are in the “doomed gypsy circle” which is:
    They don’t send their kids to school (which they’re obliged to do by law), because they think “no school system can teach their kids about real (read Gypsy) life” (Just imagine what options in life you have without education). So, they don’t get knowledge to read, write, that smoking kills, fucking without protection makes babies, stealing other’s stuff sends you in prison, living in filth will make you sick of whatnot, etc. Without elementary school you can’t get any job (unless hard work construction maybe) or go to higher education. So they can choose between – washing windscreens, begging, selling their bodies, collecting rubbish, stealing, smuggling, etc.. All the hard life. And before they’ve become adult (18) they got a bunch of kids already. Born in huts Whoknowswhere. Not registered in hospitals. Not registered in the country’s system. So, officially, they don’t exist. If they’re nowhere in papers, they can’t get social support, health care, go to school, get jobs, etc. So their parents send them on the street, to make some money. They help their parents in what they do – more hands = more bread. So they make even more kids (4-5). And so on, in the doomed circle.
    And when the state/city buys them flats, builds them homes with electricity, running water, heating, etc… They refuse to live there! Because, they have to work legal jobs, so they could pay for electrics, water, etc… So they go back to street, where they’re free.
    They’re nomads. They don’t get the concept of a state, government, etc. So, even when you try helping them, you get to a wall. Unlucky people. They live in a parallel universe.

    • Good to meet you again, Mostovljanin!!

      He’s definitely right. The woman with child was definitely a gypsy. Honestly, most of the beggars I’ve seen on the street are gypsies – old and new. It’s sickening honestly that the government gives them so much and they spit on it and yet other legal citizens are not helped who are willing to do whatever they can to live better and don’t mind having legal jobs.

      There are a few beggars I’ve helped that I knew weren’t gypsies. I won’t lie… I find it hard to help the gypsies. I know what’s offered to them to help them out.

  2. Definitely an industry. The only thing new is that they are using old women now. People got wise to the fact that “pimps” were using child beggars to make big money. If a child didn’t fill up their quota he got beaten. So essentially you had the choice between: indirectly giving your hard earned cash to some scumbag, indirectly contributing to a child getting beaten, or going to the police which of course did nothing. But people for the most part at least assumed old people to be out of the loop and gave them money. I guess even that is not true anymore. Oh, and if you are a genuine person in hardship, you are competition and will be chased off. Your best bet is to go to a soup kitchen, social services, red cross or as a last resort beg family or friends for assistance (almost no one is an island in Serbia, for precisely this reason, you never know from who you might need help). So to answer all your questions, it’s none of the above. Guilt tripping people into forfeiting their money is an industry just like any other and it’s all about who gets the most sympathy.

    • Wow, shocking!! I generally don’t give to the homeless here in the US, for precisely the same reasons you mentioned – it could easily be a fraud. That, and of course, I need my own hard earned money for my own expenses. I guess, being accustomed to US homeless, I’ve become desensitized, but over in a foreign country, I was viewing everything from a new perspective and hadn’t yet automatically categorized the homeless as conniving.

  3. Ahhhhhh I simply had to write something regarding these reply’s that fit so perfectly into stereotypes about Rromani people: people that love to roam the streets, refuse to educate their children, refuse to accept housing and help when they are offered; ‘they’ ‘them’, oh how we love to generalize don’t we. Plus they are ‘unlucky people’, there are so many explanations, and it is somehow always their fault never ours, isn’t it?
    But aren’t we all nomads? We, the Balkan people?
    It saddens me that some people still believe such nonsense, and find all reasoning by pulling the stereotype card…. I have heard these explanations and excuses in the middle of United States best public university, about minorities, people of color, refugees, immigrants, you name it; here everyone loves to brag that we all have equal opportunity but some people simply don’t want to try or try hard enough——wrong!
    I have also been discriminated against when settling in one of the ex-YU countries as a refugee, and from my past and present experience, I must say that it is not as simple as ‘it is their own fault’; it might make one feel better as this kind of response places us in a passive passerby position, while the other group is in charge of its own destiny and does it to itself, but it is simply incorrect.
    The bottom line is that most of the Rromani people do the best they can to support their families. Imagine how it must be for any mother to see her child being discriminated against and have no means of protecting the child or children. Any mother should realize how horrific this might be… and everywhere you turn you are labeled, discriminated, or marginalized…
    So the story is not as simple as many of us would like to think. Try to imagine just for few minutes what such discrimination means, and you will realize that, when these people come out to beg, most of them do it because they have no other options whatsoever.

    • Thank you for your comment, Kalina. I’m glad to have you participate in this conversation. I was shocked when I first learned about the prejudice against the Roma people, and this post has caused some really interesting feedback. Thank you for reading and responding.

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