- Around 3,500 homeless people live in Omsk, a city in Siberia – known for having one of the coldest winters in the world.
- Temperatures there can fall to minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 30 Celsius, in the depths of winter.
- To survive the freezing cold, many people in the homeless community sleep by industrial pipes that carry boiling hot water. Some people have suffered severe burns from sleeping too close to the pipes.
- Organisations like the Catholic charity Caritas also provide them with food and clothes.
- These photo show how they live under incredibly harsh winter conditions.
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The city of Omsk, Siberia, is one of the coldest places in the world.
Temperatures there can fall to minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 Celsius) in January, its coldest month, according to Accuweather.
Omsk is also home to some 3,500 homeless people. In the day, they scavenge through trash heaps to find recyclable items to sell, while at night, they sleep next to industrial pipes carrying hot water to keep warm – even if means they risk getting hurt.
Reuters photojournalist Alexey Malgavko visited the city during the winter to capture how the homeless survive the long, cold winter. Scroll down to see his photos.
Omsk, located in southwestern Siberia, has one of the longest and harshest winters in the world. The temperature plunges below zero degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) from November to around March.
Currently, the city has around 3,500 homeless people, though the number is expected to be much higher.
When the cold hits, many aren’t protected. During the winter months, many homeless people have to sleep under large industrial heating pipes for warmth.
The pipes contain scalding hot water, which is used to heat local buildings, Reuters reported.
However, sleeping there is quite dangerous. If they are too close to the pipe for too long, they risk getting severe burns.
But if they’re too far away, they risk freezing in the night.
Many people don’t realise their skin is being burned by the hot pipes because they are clouded from the vast amount of alcohol they consume to keep warm.
- Alexey Malgavko/Reuters
Many people in Siberia’s homeless community drink to dull reality as well as keep as warm as possible, Reuters said.
Forty-four-year-old Lyusya Stepanova, was hospitalized in January for three weeks after she fell asleep on the pipe and suffered burns all over her body.
Stepanova has since been admitted to a rehabilitation centre and plans to live with her mother after sleeping rough for 27 years.
“I plan to go home, to my mother. My childhood dreams were noble, but it’s too late now, that boat has already sailed,” she told Reuters.
But to other people, the pipes are a godsend. Vergunov, who regularly sleeps on them told Reuters: “It’s you that’s going to freeze in your apartment with three blankets, not me between the pipes.”
Oleg, 57, even fashioned a makeshift home on a warm pipe located 328 yards (984 feet) away from an apartment block where he used to live.
Some people even got creative in trying to find warm places to sleep. This man, named Yevgeny Korobov, made a makeshift shelter inside an underground pipe chamber.
Here’s what the well-protected and insulated shelter looks like from above.
- Alexey Malgavko/Reuters
Omsk has an overnight homeless shelter, but it’s from the city centre and many choose not to go there.
Meanwhile, local charities try to help out Omsk’s homeless community by feeding them and checking on their health.
The local branch of Caritas, the global Catholic charity, hands out food and clothes.
They also provide homeless people with health check-ups, as seen here.
During the Christmas period, the charity even put on a performance for them, and distributed food and gifts.
One way Omsk’s homeless tries to earn money is by collecting recyclable trash and passing them to distribution centres for a small sum of money.
They spend the day looking through the trash for aluminium cans or plastic bottles.
They then bring them into recycling centres, and receive money depending on their weight. They hope to get enough to live on for a few days.
And as night falls — when the city is at its coldest — many return to the pipes. “You sleep at night with your eyes closed but your ears open,” one 46-year-old man told Reuters.
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