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Gena Deryabin

I spent three years in rehab centres and even ended up managing one of them. I earned no money, I just tried to help people in one way or another. This helped me to live, it gave me a sense of being useful.

Gena is 26. When he was 10, his mother went missing. His father then took to drinking, followed by his grandmother. As a teenager, Gena fell into bad company and started drinking and taking drugs. He had nowhere to live since his grandmother had died and his father had fallen victim to real estate fraudsters. At the age of 25 Gena realised that he could not carry on living like that and went to  Alcoholics Anonymous. He has been living in Nochlezhka's shelter for over a year, he no longer drinks and is now helping other people overcome their addiction. Gena gets occasional jobs as a fitter but he has not been able to find a permanent job because he has never had any ID. We are currently working on helping him sort out his papers.

Asya Suvorova, Nochlezhka's social worker

I was born in St. Petersburg when it was still called Leningrad, and grew up here. We lived in the city centre. My grandmother had made a career at the metro service, my mum was working as a chef and my dad was an engineer. I had a normal life, just like any other kid, with a nursery, school, school parties. I was a good pupil and I liked everything.

One evening my mum went out to get some bread. When she was leaving, I closed the door after her. She never came back. I was ten. We still know nothing of her. We tried looking for her and went to the police, but all these efforts came to nothing. This is how it all started.

My dad started going nuts because of this. I had never seen him drunk before, they loved each other. After she went missing, he took to the bottle.

It was in 2000. Our apartment block at 1, Vosstania Street, was being rehoused (there is now a printing centre where we used to live). So my grandmother and us were given two separate flats in Kupchino with a decent balance payment on top. I lived with my dad. He started spending the money we had been given on vodka and he didn't have to work.

I tried to save my dad, I threw his bottles of vodka through the window, threatened him and even fought him. I really tried to stop him but it was all in vain. By that time I had started drinking myself. I was doing it out of despair, perhaps. I loitered and hung around, panhandled and sniffed glue. It was a form of protest, I really wanted to be saved. I was hoping Dad would come looking for me. I was hoping he would become affectionate, happy and sober and save me from this hell.

By the age of 15 the situation had gone from bad to worse. By that time Dad had already fallen victim to a real estate fraud. He wanted to exchange our flat for another one. He signed everything while drunk and that was it. We lost the flat and had to move to my granny's studio. After this, they started drinking together. I was doing petty crimes, stealing now and then and spent 4 years in prison for theft.

My grandmother worked for the underground for 40 years, she retired at the age of 76 an died two years later, in 2007. One cannot drink this much at this age.

When she passed away, my father started drinking even more. Then his sister, very resourceful aunt Olya, appeared out of nowhere. She suggested that my father should move out of the city and into Leningrad Region and give up my granny's inheritance in her favour. This is what he did. She rented a room for him and he moved out. I did not follow.

In 2011 I came to this village, Novolisino, where Dad was living. I had been there a couple of times previously. His neighbour walked out and greeted me by saying, 'You know what? If you stay here now, both of you are done with. If, on the other hand, you leave and never come back, he might just make it'. I don't know why but I got really scared. I fled and didn't think about it for five years. This long forgotten memory has only recently resurfaced, the memory that he stayed there. All this time I have been thinking about him like he just didn't exist.

I went there the day before yesteday. I woke up thinking that I just had to go there. The people I knew are no longer there, their windows are simply boarded up. The flat where my father used to live has a new door, it has clearly been renovated, there is an expensive car in front of the windows. No one answers the bell next door. The local police office has moved somewhere. When I went to the local administration they just shrugged and said, 'You know how people die here? They die and we're the last ones to find out'.

So I know nothing about my family in the end. I have a big brother. He's my half-brother, on my mother's side, and he also went missing at some point. He was still with us when we were living with my grandmother. At some point he just got fed up with all this alcohol, so he told my dad, 'Look, if you don't quit, I'm off!'

So Dad told him to bugger off. He once tried getting in touch with me when I was in jail. I received a message from him, apparently he said something like 'You have such and such there, I'm his brother, I say hello'. It's very likely that he's still alive.

I came to Nochlezhka in 2011. Valentina Marianovna, a social worker, looked at me in a funny way when she heard my surname. I am telling her something and she goes, 'Hey, your mum registered you at Nochlezhka back in 1992'. It turned out that when I was born, my mum and my granny didn't get on too well: my granny and dad were registered at the flat in Vosstania Street but my granny refused to register me or my mum there. But you had to register children somewhere, so my mum brought me to Nochlezhka. It was on Sinopskaya Embankment back then. She registered herself, too.

I have never in my life had a registered permanent residence. I have never had an ID. I have been trying to get it for over a year. I have restored my identity, proved that I am who I am and applied for citizenship. I waited for half a year. I was then told that I had been granted citizenship and it had been sent to me for a signature. I received the application and a refusal on the grounds of some missing certificates.

I spent three years in rehabilitation centres. I ended up managing one of them. I earned no money, I just tried to help people in one way or another. This helped me to live, it gave me a sense of being useful.

Interviewed by Nastya Ryabtseva for Takie Dela

Photography by Artem Protsyuk/SCHSCHI for Takie Dela

4 months

An average period of time spent by a homeless person at the shelter

47 160 руб

Average cost of bringing a homeless person to stable life

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