ADRA Serbia Bus Provides for 1,000 Homeless People

Trans-European Division

ADRA Serbia Bus Provides for 1,000 Homeless People

When a shower is the first step on the pathway to dignity

Mission | BeIgrade, Serbia | Igor Mitrović with tedNEWS

Mobile showers for homeless people in Serbia

06 December |BeIgrade, Serbia [Igor Mitrović with tedNEWS]

Historically, homelessness in Serbia never existed until the Balkan wars of the 1990’s when it arrived abruptly. As Igor Mitrović, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Serbia director explains, “Socialist countries didn’t have a homelessness problem at all. Everyone was taken care of. But the war created displaced people and refugees, due to the collapse public enterprises. Compounding the problem, the private sector did not have the capacity to employ all employed by the former state sector. As a result continued Mitrović, “The result is that over the last few decades we have had skyrocketing numbers of refuges and homeless people, further compounded by the refugee crisis of 2008 and 2009, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the latest 2022 refugee crisis.”

Our society was not ready for homeless and displaced people”, explained Mitrović, “without any structure in place, because there was no need. Now, all of a sudden… we have a number of growing refugees and homeless people, without anyone taking care of them, we just got a growing impression that we need to do something for them.”

On the bus we provide a shower and consultation room. 

“Can you imagine going for months without a shower?, asks Mitrović. “But when you think about it carefully, you begin to understand that it is actually a first step towards the recovery of personal dignity, a recovery of hope, which moves the individual from a static/passive form of existence (why bother trying to sort my life out), and a move to start using the opportunities we provide such as healthcare and employment guidance.”

The bus provides showers, laundry services, healthcare and counselling, with guidance for clients on how to recover and get back on their feet. With 75% of clients not having IDs, in the context of civil society they are ‘ghosts’, without any element of the government recognising them. Very few are professional homeless, but family people who three or four years ago ran into serious crisis, or people who had their own lives or lost them.

With eight volunteers, it has taken two years to win their confidence enough for them to regard ADRA and the bus as a continuing source of support. And as Mitrović points out – “Our work is unique – and if you think I’m exaggerating this, just a month ago the Serbian Prime Minister called me and essentially said, “We as a government do not know how to deal with this situation, and want to find out how to work together, and change the legislation so we can better to support homeless people for whatever reason.”

Shortly after we published this story, Igor Mitrović gave a presentation to a parliamentary committee about the work he is doing. to give a presentation to the government.

“I am fully convicted”, said Mitrović, “Christ’s ministry is to work with the homeless.” As he concluded our conversation he shared something most interesting. “Missionally, those most likely to receive the message of Christ are our volunteers. They believe in the cause of the compassion of Christ. My local ADRA colleagues attend church, and I regard them as friends who belong before they necessarily believe (and that’s fine with me). We work and grow together as a team. When my volunteers start attending the church, students, young professionals, you know they are attracted by something different.

Watch Igor Mitrović share his story in detail of how ADRA Serbia is making an incredible and unique difference in Belgrade today.