Photos show what it's like to be homeless in the winter in Siberia, one of the coldest regions in the world

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersGaliya, 29, looks out from a makeshift shelter in Omsk, Russia, on February 14, 2020.
  • 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.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersA dog walks in the snow, next to a power plant in Omsk, Russia on January 16, 2020.

Source: Climate-Data.org, Accuweather


Currently, the city has around 3,500 homeless people, though the number is expected to be much higher.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersAlexei Vergunov, 46, brings bottles and aluminium cans which he collected to exchange for payment to a recycling centre in Omsk on February 16, 2020.

Source: Reuters


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.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersA heated pipe runs through a forest in Omsk on December 13, 2019.

The pipes contain scalding hot water, which is used to heat local buildings, Reuters reported.

Source: Reuters


However, sleeping there is quite dangerous. If they are too close to the pipe for too long, they risk getting severe burns.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersOleg, 57, rests with others on top of warm pipes in Omsk on February 14, 2020.

Source: Reuters


But if they’re too far away, they risk freezing in the night.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersLyusya Stepanova sits on a warm pipe after waking up in Omsk on December 4, 2019.

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.

caption
Alexei Vergunov, Andrey, and Galiya have an alcoholic drink at Vergunov’s shelter in Omsk on February 16, 2020.
source
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.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersLyusya Stepanova smokes a cigarette after waking up on a warm pipe in Omsk on December 23, 2019.

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.

Source: 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.”

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersA homeless man rests on a warm pipe in Omsk on December 7, 2019.

Source: Reuters


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.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersOleg sits on a pipe where he now lives in Omsk on January 29, 2020.

Source: Reuters


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.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersYevgeny Korobov and another person named Denis sit inside an underground pipe chamber in Omsk on January 23, 2020.

Source: Reuters


Here’s what the well-protected and insulated shelter looks like from above.

caption
Yevgeny Korobov, 43, nicknamed “Korobok” (box) sits inside an underground pipe chamber in Omsk on January 23, 2020.
source
Alexey Malgavko/Reuters

Omsk has an overnight homeless shelter, but it’s from the city centre and many choose not to go there.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersSasha and Lyusya Stepanova walk through Omsk on December 4, 2019.

Source: Reuters


Meanwhile, local charities try to help out Omsk’s homeless community by feeding them and checking on their health.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersAlexei Vergunov has a meal during a charity event in Omsk on December 26, 2019.

Source: Reuters


The local branch of Caritas, the global Catholic charity, hands out food and clothes.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersLyuda eats a hot meal at a soup kitchen which is run weekly by volunteers, in front of a recycling centre in Omsk on January 25, 2020.

Source: Reuters


They also provide homeless people with health check-ups, as seen here.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersA nun checks the blood pressure of a man who is homeless in Omsk on October 24, 2019.

Source: Reuters


During the Christmas period, the charity even put on a performance for them, and distributed food and gifts.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersA man plays the guitar during a Caritas charity event in Omsk on December 26, 2019.

Source: Reuters


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.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersAn employee who works at a recycling centre looks out the window in Omsk on February 14, 2020.

Source: Reuters


They spend the day looking through the trash for aluminium cans or plastic bottles.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersBystrushkin, who is visually impaired, looks through a rubbish bin in Omsk on November 28, 2019.

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.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersAn employee weighs a bag filled with recyclables collected by Sasha, and Lyusya at a recycling centre in Omsk on December 4, 2019.

Source: Reuters


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.

Alexey Malgavko/ReutersLyusya Stepanova uses a water pump to fill up a bottle on a street in Omsk on December 4, 2019.

Source: Reuters

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