When looking for housing, we encounter prejudices, say the Roma. In Prague 3, a Roma counselor helps them News

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A Roma counselor helps with the solution of specific problems and the support of Roma culture, a position that Prague 3 provides as the only district in the capital.

According to qualified estimates, approximately two thousand Roma live in the territory of Prague 3, making them the largest ethnic minority in the district’s population of eighty thousand. “We are the first and only district in Prague and one of only two municipalities in the Czech Republic that employs a Roma counselor. Thanks to her connection with the Roma community, the voice of the Roma is transmitted to the local administrative and political level,” says Nikol Marhounová, deputy mayor of Prague 3 for the social sector, adding: “With the help of a Roma consultant, we are creating a space for the presentation of the rich Roma culture and the natural rapprochement of the Roma with the majority . We also know about the pitfalls and challenges that the local Roma face. The Roma advisor, who is closest to them, provides the necessary assistance in this.”

The activity of the Roma counselor, who has been operating in Prague 3 since November 2021, is focused on the Roma community, but also works at the institutional level. “For the local Roma, I am not some kind of aloof official, but above all a partner and helper. I perceive their life situation, problems and needs. I also work with an expert group consisting of the Roma coordinator of the capital, representatives of pro-Roma organizations and the social affairs department of the Prague 3 office. In a network built in this way, it is easier to pass on information and create conditions for conceptual solutions,” explains Veronika Polášková, Roma advisor of Prague 3.

As part of the project, the district carried out qualitative research among the local Roma. In in-depth interviews, she inquired about how the Roma community lives in Prague 3. The vast majority of respondents are satisfied with living conditions in Prague 3. Roma people feel safe here, they appreciate quality social services. However, the answers also show that they have significantly worse access to the regular commercial housing market than the majority population. They encounter prejudices and dismissive attitudes here. “I am approached by Roma who are at risk of losing their housing or have difficulty finding decent housing. We deal with each such situation individually, often in coordination with our contact point for housing. I provide administrative support and advice, I represent Roma in communication with property owners or lessors. I also help the local Roma community in the field of education, social benefits, in other words as an escort to the office,” describes Polášková.

The Roma counselor also got to know activities to support the Roma during internships abroad: in Slovakia and Norway. This Scandinavian country became an inspiration for Prague 3 on how to strengthen pre-school attendance for Roma children. “Following the example of Norway, we are considering the introduction of schools, where it would be possible to place children in a more gradual regime than is currently the case, for example only twice a week, for two hours each time. This will enable families to better adapt to the pre-school attendance regime. We are currently looking for suitable premises for the project and also partners for financing,” explains the deputy mayor of Prague 3, Marhounová.

Support for Roma in Prague 3 also includes cultural events. On Friday, April 5, a full-day program with a Roma theater, a creative workshop and a concert will take place in the Vozovna Cultural Center in Žižkov. The event is part of the Prague-wide Roma culture festival, which begins today, April 3, and culminates on Monday, April 8, when we commemorate International Roma Day.

The activities of the Roma counselor are carried out within the project “Support of the Roma minority in the territory of the Prague 3 district” financed by Norwegian funds 2014—2021. The organizations Slovo 21 and R-mosty participated in the implementation of the project.

The article is in Czech

Tags: housing encounter prejudices Roma Prague Roma counselor helps News

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