More than fifteen adolescents, who must leave the Zadik Orphanage due to their age, have been told by the director to fend for themselves.
The children say that there are some 200 others that face the same problem because the government hasn’t allocated any housing for them.
Some of the affected are students who work odd jobs at substandard pay for substandard housing.
19 year-old Armen Sargsyan says he’s been able to find an apartment in Nor Nork for 20,000 AMD a month ($60) for himself and his friend Artour Khachatryan.
Only Armen allowed himself to be photographed. The others, who are either college students or working, were afraid of the humiliation awaiting them if it got out that they were from the orphanage.
“We have to pay 25,000 just for electricity. The apartment belongs to somebody we know. He’s aware that we’re from the orphanage. It’s a lot of money. We can’t even buy clothes,” Armen said.
Some get by with help provided by others who’ve left the orphanage. Some of the kids either sleep over at friends’ homes or even at the workplace. A few have spent nights on the street.
The director hasn’t turned out any girls as yet, but he’s told them to get their housing issues sorted out as well.
“The ministry told us that we could get apartments in Maralik, but we turned the offer down. There’s no work to be found there. How would we survive?” Armen says.
They say that Maralik is too far from Yerevan, where many study or work.
Zatik Orphanage Director Ashot Mnatsakanyan says that they are allowed to keep the children until the age of 18.
“For years, we’ve kept some kids past that age, especially the girls. We’ve rented apartments to the boys,” Mnatsakanyan said.
The orphanage director is also the president of the Bari Shavigh NGO. He’s allocated organization funds to those leaving the orphanage for rental expenses.
Mnatsakanyan couldn’t tell me exactly how many kids have left the orphanage without a place to go. All he could say was that three apartments had been rented and that 3-4 boys could live in each.
He said that the government doesn’t assume responsibility for caring for the children once they leave the orphanage.
“You’d have to ask the government or MP’s why the law hasn’t been changed in this regard. They could extend the age till, say, 23,” Mnatsakanyan said.
When I remarked that the government is obligated to find suitable housing for those leaving the system, Mnatsakanyan responded that a housing program was in place but due to the financial crunch it hasn’t been funded for the past 2-3 years.
Hetq has sent an inquiry regarding the issue to the RA Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.