MOSCOW: ‘’When you live on the streets, when you have a tent and there is no chance of bathing, people don’t understand you and its tough to get a job,’’ said Kolya, 22. He was sitting near a popular pedestrian street in Moscow trying to collect money for a sleeping bag, he said. Born in a village in western Russia, Kolya said his mom put him into an orphanage when he was eight. At the time, the collective farm was falling apart and his mother had a third child. He said things are still difficult for his family. His mother, step-father and two brothers live in a room and his mom earns about $100 a month. ‘’So as not to be a burden," he said he left for Moscow a few months ago to look for work. He sleeps at night in the forests near the railroad tracks in the Moscow suburbs. I asked him what his plans were. ‘’If I raise money for a sleeping bag, I will hitchhike to Crimea. There is a lot of infrastructure to build in Crimea and an extra hand doesn’t hurt. Plus, it is a lot warmer there."
Rasul, my ‘neighbour,’ was in a bad mood when I spoke with him. He said someone has stolen his pillows earlier in the day. Rasul told me he grew up in the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan and had previously worked as a handyman, doing repairs on people’s apartments. Now he is homeless, sleeping during the summer in a patch of grass in front of my building with other homeless people. Rasul's friend later told me someone gave him new pillows. The city recently spruced up that patch of grass, adding flowers, so Rasul and friends can't sleep there anymore. I saw him earlier this month crossing the street. He was holding something inside his coat. I asked him what he had…. 3 large rocks from a nearby construction site. He said it was to protect himself.