Behind the headlines of Mideast peace, lies an issue that is often ignored. Homelessness and poverty is a rampant problem in Israel.

The Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee held a meeting on the obstacles facing the homeless.

Eli Gigi, a social worker at the Ofakim Municipality, told the committee of his personal experiences working with the homeless.

”R”, a homeless person once told Eli “I am a 32-year-old drug addict. I live in a shelter with no electricity, water or washroom. I have a family, they are all drug addicts. I tried [drug] rehab programs, but after them I had nowhere to go and I started doing drugs again when I heard that they put my family out on the street.”

‘R” will receive an allowance for the first time, to which he has been entitled for half a year now, because up until today, there was no one who would go out, locate him and assist him in exercising his rights”,the social worker said.

Gigi further added “I have 16 homeless in the city and I have no hostel. A homeless person who is staying at my house received assistance with rent, but she couldn’t pay the gaps and went back to the street. She is now choosing to stay in a shelter, and tells me how many offers for a place to sleep she gets on the streets in exchange for sexual services. What bothers the homeless the most is the humiliation. The fact that people don’t see them, distance themselves and don’t touch them. Not just the citizens, but also us – the Establishment.”

According to a recent study, 610 homeless people died in thelast decade and a half.  Dr. Shmuel Sheintoch who conducted the study on this subject says that the gap between the official statistics on the number of homeless in Israel and the situation on the ground is very wide. While according to estimates, in Israel there are currently between 11,105 and 32,463 homeless.

MK Alkharumi said “I was shocked by this statistic of over 600 homeless who died. These are people who have been abandoned, both in terms of government handling and by society. The main danger inherent in young people landing up on the streets lies in the fact that they will be abused in the form of prostitution and street crime, and it is the entire society who will pay the price.”