BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Volunteers including Britain's ambassador to Romania handed out hot soup and clothing to homeless people in a city where an estimated 5,000 sleep rough in conditions so precarious that 300 die a year from the cold and illness.
Dozens of homeless people received steaming paper cups of soup, tea and coffee Thursday in temperatures of -5 C (23 F ) outside the Gara de Nord railway station, where homeless people congregate and sleep in Bucharest, a city of 2 million.
Charity official Ian Tilling said the goal is to "raise awareness of the difficulties experienced by homeless people particularly in aspects of finding shelter and finding food. It's a basic human right."
Most of those interviewed called on local authorities to take note of their plight and pointed out there were no homeless people during the communist era, which ended in 1989. "Some mayors don't fulfill their duties. Why are there so many poor people in the street?" homeless man Radu Costel said. "When (former leader Nicolae) Ceausescu was alive, (people) were given a job and a house and something to eat. Why do people have to stay in shelters? People must work. We are young and strong and need to work."
British Ambassador Martin Harris said it was "really important at Christmas time that people feel the support of the community and so we want to be here to share the spirit of Christmas with everybody including the people here at the Gara de Nord."
A homeless man who identified himself by his first name, Laur, said he had been living on the streets for 15 years. "My mother went to Italy and never came back. She abandoned me around here somewhere," he said. "I eat from garbage bins and search for scrap iron. If I find it, it's fine, if not you must beg."