Japanese rescue worker Dr. Atsushi Miyazaki lost his life beneath the rubbles of the hotel in Van where he was staying during his rescue mission aimed at helping the victims of a strong earthquake in 2011. His name and spirit lives on in many places around Turkey, and one of them is situated in a small street in Cihangir called Borazan Sokak no 3.
This is where you can find ?efkat-Der, an organisation for the homeless, with their Atsushi Miyazaki house for the homeless right there, in Firuza?a. It is one and only non-governmental organisation taking care of the homeless in this part of Istanbul. Lest there be no mistake, no governmental institutions exist at this point, as I have been told, and the growing number of the homeless and needy depend entirely on the donations and good will of the people who care.
If you are walking around the main streets and squares of Cihangir just after 8.30 pm, chances are you will see groups of young people putting on high visibility vests, and pushing carts with food up the hills of Cihangir, and towards Taksim. These young people are volunteers who gather every evening to deliver hot soup to the homeless and needy around Beyo?lu. They gather right in front of Atsushi Miyazaki house, where soups and other meals are being prepared before the evening delivery, and where a very limited number out of approximately 1000 homeless persons in Beyo?lu find their warm bed for the night.
A short “walk” through the house tells stories that are larger than life – stories of educated, and even famous people who ended up on the streets, and whose names hang on the walls in order to remind us that homelessness is a condition that can happen even to the most successful ones, and that we should all develop true kindness and nourish deep respect towards the people on the streets.
The evening soup route is not a very long one – it starts in Firuza?a, with several points along the way towards Taksim, where the homeless knowingly wait for their evening meal, and it finishes in Gezi Park, where the queue of those in need of a warm meal gets disturbingly long. No one is asked anything, nor is anyone’s condition questioned; if you are hungry you can simply wait in the line to get your evening portion of food, and a warm word of kindness from one of the thousands volunteers that have delivered soup to the homeless on the streets of Beyo?lu over the past couple of years.
For us who live and work in Beyo?lu, seeing an ever-increasing number of vulnerable people right in front of our eyes is a situation that causes the deepest concerns of all kinds and on all human levels. Luckily, ?efkat-Der offers an initiative that gives a ray of hope. We can all make that ray shine brighter and stronger. I could clearly see that on the evening when thanks to ?efkat-Der, for the very first time, I approached the homeless of my beloved neighbourhood.
When Billur moved from her hometown of Izmir to Istanbul at an early age, she immediately fell in love with its charm and uniqueness. Over the years, she became part and parcel of Cihangir – a zone heavily inhabited with expats and intriguing locals, where today she is known as the real expert of the neighbourhood. Also known as an animal rescuer, Billur currently owns two cats and one dog, all three of them saved from tough conditions on the streets.