A home of their own after the orphanage – the story of Sarmat, Filip, and a girl who was cheated twice
North Ossetia has a rather unusual article in its legislation: when orphaned children grow old enough to leave the orphanage, they must be given their own apartment by the state.
In most other regions of the Caucasus, these children are put in very difficult situations, sometimes literally ending up on the streets.
Here are several stories about how this law in North Ossetia works in practice.
Sarmat Batsazov was ten years old when he was put on the list to receive an apartment.
Now he’s 19. He received his one-room apartment in Vladikavkaz just a year ago.
“When we were put on the list, there were around 2,000 people ahead of us in line. The law states that we can only be given the apartment once we turn of age. And that’s what happened, in our case. We kept an eye on the list, which was available on the government site,” says Sarmat’s aunt Indira Batsazova.
Around 1,396 orphans and children without parental care are now in line for housing in North Ossetia. 73 of them are set to receive apartments in 2020. About 100,000,000 rubles [about $1,200,000] were allocated for this purpose.
Sarmat and his aunt Indira are overjoyed about his new apartment.
“It’s huge and refurbished. Usually, one-bedrooms are around 17 square meters.
But Sarmat is lucky, he was put up in a new building and the one-bedrooms are a lot bigger than 17 square meters,” says Indira.
Deputy Prime Minister of North Ossetia Irina Azimova told JAMnews that they are already in the process of purchasing 49 more apartments.
“We focus on trying to obtain newly-built apartments. But in places where there are no such apartments, we work with the recipients to find and purchase housing arrangements where they agree to live,” says Irina Azimova.
But the situation is not as good as it may seem on first glance.
The girl who was lied to twice
In the beginning, in 2018, this orphan girl (she did not give social services permission to disclose her name) was solemnly handed the keys to an apartment in an apartment building in Alagiry District of North Ossetia.
She was extremely happy. But as the online publication Krilya TV reports, when she arrived, she found the apartment in disrepair and in line for demolition.
Twice the girl was lied to and given the key to an uninhabitable apartment in North Ossetia, reports the press service for the North Ossetian prosecutor’s office.
She does not say where and how she survived the whole year before she finally received the “happy news.” In 2019, she was once again given an apartment. After she moved, it turned out that there was no heating at all. Some witnesses said that it was essentially a warehouse.
Now the prosecutor has opened a criminal case against the former senior official in the Alagiry District, and has also filed a lawsuit against the North Ossetian Ministry of Social Security and Labor.
This is just one of the cases that the prosecutor’s office is handling following an inspection of how well the state is fulfilling its obligation to give apartments to orphans.
But it’s not that simple.
A government source told JAMnews:
“Some of those who are waiting for an apartment use this tactic. They take the government to court, the court makes a decision, of course, in their favor, and in the end, they get housing faster, bypassing the wait time.”
This is the main problem for many orphans who have come of age and left the orphanage. There is a law that guarantees they will receive housing. But some had to wait 10 years, or even more than 20 before they are given an apartment. For many, these 10 or 20 years can make all the difference in their lives.
The same government source told us confidently and with documents in hand as evidence that in recent years the situation has improved markedly. The information he provided shows that in the past three years, the federal government has been supplementing local budgets, and it has been possible to purchase up to 100 apartments a year.
Filip Salagayev is 29 years old. He settled in the apartment purchased for him by the authorities in the city of Beslan in February 2020. He had been waiting for this moment for more than ten years.
He says that the apartment is nice and new. “All the plumbing and facilities were working and in the right place,” he says.
Filip did not want to say where he has lived these past ten years. Irina Azimova says that a number of graduates find shelter with relatives. Others are helped to find a dorm room, some are lucky and find jobs where they earn enough money to rent a house.
But there are other options. Two orphans who “graduated” from the orphanage went to live in a nursing home for the elderly and disabled.
Filip said that several of his friends from the orphanage continue to wait in line for their apartment and still have a long time to wait.