The number of homeless people helped by Israel’s social services is less than 10 percent of the number of homeless people in the country cited by local civil rights activists — 25,000 — due to the authorities’ stringent criteria, Channel 10 News reported Monday.
In 2016, the latest year for which figures exist, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services dealt with just 1,872 people living outside.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, by contrast, defines 25,000 people as homeless.
For people to be defined as homeless under Social Services Ministry criteria, they must be above 18 years of age and live on the streets and either be cut off from their families, be in an unstable physical or mental state, have a history of mental or physical illness, be on drugs, be unable to function in most areas of their lives, have a history of violence, or be unable to fight for better conditions.
These criteria exclude teenagers and children, newly released prisoners, people who have been ordered to stay away from their homes by the courts, and others, the report said.
Homeless families do not fall under the ministry’s criteria at at all. They are the responsibility of the Housing and Construction Ministry.
Furthermore, according to Channel 10 News, the Social Services ministry’s annual budget of NIS 14.5 million ($4.3 million) is not used to help put a roof over the heads of the homeless and then to start rehabilitating them, as is accepted in most of the developed world.
The funds are aimed at rehabilitation first — teaching the homeless about their rights and getting them started on rehabilitative programs — all while they are still without a proper home.