A hostel for homeless teens is due to open in the upscale Merkaz Hacarmel neighborhood of Haifa in October, over the vehement objections of Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav.
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Six months ago, Yahav came out strongly against the plan to move the hostel from its location in a less desirable section of town to Merkaz Hacarmel. In a recording obtained by Haaretz, Yahav was heard saying: “I don’t want them in my city, let them go to Kiryat Ata,” referring to a working-class suburb in the Haifa bay area. Yahav also said that there would be an “uprising” by residents if the hostel was moved to Merkaz Hacarmel.
The hostel is set to move in October, following the signing of a contract without Yahav’s knowledge. The negotiations were mediated by MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), who is chairwoman of the subcommittee for homeless teens and has been involved in the hostel’s struggle since the beginning.
The hostel belongs to a social services organization called Otot, which is contracted by the Social Services Ministry to provide housing for homeless teens. The rental agreement in the hostel’s current location in lower Haifa ran out in April and it has been looking for a new home ever since.
The hostel, which is the only one of its kind in the north, provides temporary housing for homeless boys and girls aged 12 to 18. Every year it houses some 300 teens. In its current location, the teens say they were victims of crime, taunts and sexual abuse.
In February, as reported in Haaretz, Yahav prevented the hostel from moving to another structure in Merkaz Hacarmel, belonging to a private education and welfare foundation. The Rutenberg Foundation had raised about 1.5 million shekels for renovation of the premises, but withdrew from the agreement following Yahav’s intervention.
“I’ve got autistic people, I’ve got homeless peopleare you crazy?” Yahav is heard saying in the recorded conversation with Otot director Tamar Alon and MK Ben Ari, “I’ve made my position clear and if you want to go ahead with this there will be a world war.”
“We have to move from here, it’s unsafe, no other emergency center is located in such an area,” said Sharon Oscar, the hostel’s manager, said in February.
Alon said that after the affair was made public, many residents of Merkaz Hacarmel came out in support of the teens and three different residents offered to rent premises they own to the hostel. It is one of these that will be the hostel’s new home.
On a visit to the new premises Ben Ari said she was impressed by the owner’s strong desire to help the homeless teens.
The Social Services Ministry, which pays the rent for the hostel, said it had approved the move.