Tel Aviv Municipality Falling Short in Services for Homeless, Report Says

The city is supposed to have one social worker every 25 homeless, but only has one for every 85, a report by the city comptroller claims

A homeless person in Tel Aviv, November 2019.
Meged Gozani

The Tel Aviv municipality’s department for helping the homeless suffers from a severe shortage of both manpower and suitable housing solutions, according to a report by the city comptroller.

The city is also violating social work regulations and the orders of the State Comptroller’s Office, which prepared its own report on the subject in 2005.

Patrols to locate homeless people are carried out by someone who isn’t a social worker, the municipal report said; in fact, a social worker joins the patrols only once a week. Moreover, the person on patrol sometimes approaches homeless people on his own, thereby endangering his own safety.

Additionally, not every homeless person is sent for a medical check-up.

And the requisite ratio of one social worker for every 25 homeless people isn’t anywhere near being met. According to data given to the city council’s audit committee in August 2018, the ratio is actually one social worker for every 85 cases.

Shula Keshet, who chairs that committee, suggested last year that the city try to improve this ratio by pressuring the Social Affairs Ministry to allocate more funding for this purpose.

The department runs no facilities of its own to help the homeless, the report continued. Instead, it often refers them to Kiryat Shlomo Hospital in Kfar Harutzim, which specializes in patients suffering from cognitive decline. And contrary to the state comptroller’s orders, the city hasn’t prepared a full treatment plan for every homeless person it helps.

There are two private facilities for homeless people in Tel Aviv, both run by an organization called Lasova. One can accommodate 25 women and the other can handle 30 men. A third facility, for 50 homeless drug addicts, is currently closed due a dispute between the Islamic Council and the city that’s being adjudicated in court.

The report, which was prepared last year and released two months ago, said the municipal department helped 800 homeless people in 2017. Of these, 117 were referred to national treatment facilities and 558 to shelters in the city. That same year, 14 homeless people died in Tel Aviv, up from eight in 2016. Most died of addiction-related diseases.

As of August 2018, the department had around 600 standard open cases plus another 300 that were defined as short-term cases. The report also noted that the number of calls to the municipal hotline rose by around 800 in 2018.

Sources in the department said the number of homeless people in Tel Aviv has grown by 50 percent over the last five years, in part due to the availability of new types of drugs.

The municipality said it provides assistance to all homeless people in its jurisdiction, “even though most aren’t residents of the city.” This assistance is based on government regulations “alongside the municipality’s systemic approach.”

The Social Affairs Ministry said it provides funding based on the number of homeless people the city helps, but “allocating staff to handle homeless people is the municipality’s responsibility.”