adopted Hakob when he was 15 days old and
learned later that he had Cerebral Palsy.
Every morning Sona Meymaryan, her mother Epraksia,
and her two children leave their house made of
boxes and plastic and go to the street.
For about a month they have lived in their crude
shack, hoping each day that someone from social
services will see them and offer help.
The family is not alone in its plight. Beggars
and homeless are the unfortunate fallout of an
economy that has struggled for a decade.
But the Meymaryans are among the most vulnerable.
Both of Sona's children are disabled. Eight year
old Hakob has cerebral palsy. Six year old Aravik
has a spinal problem, too, though she can walk
In 1984 Sona and her husband moved to Kalmykia,
Russia. Sona says her husband is a drunkard, and
that perhaps as a result, they were unable to
have a child.
So they adopted 15-day old Hakob from a Russian
hospital, unaware that he had been born with cerebral
Upon learning of Hakob's condition they decided
to adopt a second child and got Arevik when she
was three months old. It was when she grew older
they learned that the girl, too, had health problems.
After enduring several years of abuse from her
husband, Sona decided to return to Yerevan last
December with her mother and children.
Upon arriving, she learned that her husband had
sold the apartment, so her family moved in with
says she has proper documents, but her old
Russian passport is of little help.
But after a few months the relatives said Sona
must find her own place, as one apartment was
too small for several people including children
with special needs.
So last month they spent their last money on
a taxi ride to Ulnetsu Street where hostels are
located. But upon arriving they learned that all
the rooms were filled.
After one night on the street, the next day they
found boxes and plastic and made a shelter near
the hostel's iron gate.
Now the family survives on the mercy of residents
who live in a nearby hostel for foreign students.
"In India we have many families like this
too," says Vicki, an Indian student who gives
the family money for bread.
The resident director of the hostel Mariam Adamyan
brings them hot meals from the hostel's canteen.
She also gave them a mattress and pillows.
"The family has lived here for a month in
unsanitary conditions. No one takes care of them
except students," she says. "We help
them as much we can but we cannot take care of
them forever. The children need medical help.
They need a shelter. We informed several offices
and institutions about them but no one has appeared."
from India who live in a nearby hostel have
been a steady source of assistance.
Sona too made several attempts to apply to the
governmental offices. But she says the police
did not allow her to enter the office.
"They did not want even to take a look at
my family documents because of my appearance,"
she says. "They thought I am sick."
Sona says she has all the necessary documents,
including adoption papers to qualify for a pension.
But she says wherever she goes people will not
meet with her because of her unkempt condition.
Also, she has a skin condition that she says is
the result of nerves and that people are afraid
she has a disease. But she says that neither her
mother nor children have such problems though
they are constantly with her.
Some passersby have suggested she take her children
to an orphanage. But Sona says she cannot survive
without her children and that Hakob, who must
stay in a wheelchair, especially needs her.
So she waits for social services, hoping for
help that has been slow in coming.
Editor's note: Frequently
ArmeniaNow readers ask how they might assist
families suffering social crises. While it is
not our intention to search out desperate cases,
it is our hope that those we are made aware
of might benefit from the concern of our readers.
If you feel compelled to assist in such cases,
please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
and we will send instructions on how you might