Story #83. A Cultural Community Center That Has Worked as a Humanitarian Hub

March 28, 2023
On February 24, 2022, the SHELTER+ center in Kryvyi Rih faced the terrifying challenge of the full-scale Russian invasion. #UkraineWorldTestimony

The cultural and community center SHELTER+ was founded in Kryvyi Rih in 2002. Over its 20 years of operation, the organization has bought its own building and established dozens of artistic, sports, educational, and other initiatives for children, youth, and adults.

However, on February 24, 2022, the SHELTER+ team faced the terrifying challenge of the full-scale Russian invasion. All cultural activities were put on hold, and focus was shifted to fighting for Ukrainian survival.

Roman Morozov, the center's co-founder, said that from the first day of the full-scale war, SHELTER+ has served as a shelter for hundreds of internally displaced persons.

Generous Kryvorizhans have brought clothes, food, hygiene items, and blankets to the organization's building. All the rooms and halls of SHELTER+ were overflowing with humanitarian aid.

In the first three months of the full-scale war, thanks to ordinary people and charitable foundations, the center's team managed to provide a huge amount of assistance: about 500 families were waiting in line to receive humanitarian aid every day. The queue stretched across the street, and the volunteers' pace of work was crazy. In parallel with its humanitarian work, in April and May 2022, SHELTER+ employees tried to resume the center's normal operations providing space for painting, theater performances, film screenings, and much more.

But Roman and his colleagues realized that it was impossible to exist as both a humanitarian aid distribution center and a cultural and public institution within the same building. At that time, about 50,000 IDPs had settled in Kryvyi Rih, and they needed both help with housing and food, as well as a place to relax and develop.

After discussing their options, SHELTER+'s members decided to rent an abandoned three-story  building on the same street. In their new space, the volunteers distributed 10,000 food parcels a month.

In the summer, the SHELTER+ team realized that this rented building was completely unsuitable for winter because it was not heated. They decided that the facility needed investment. USAID agreed to provide funds for this. But it made no sense to invest so much money in a building they were renting from  someone else, so Roman Morozov and his colleagues decided to buy it.

Since the fall of 2022, SHELTER+ has owned two buildings.  The first one is used for its normal cultural and social work operations, while the second one is for humanitarian assistance.

In the year-plus since the start of the full-scale war, SHELTER+ has become a haven for displaced people from Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Kherson, Melitopol, Popasna, Soledar, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Makiivka, Chasiv Yar, and other towns and villages that have come under Russian occupation or shelling. Many of these IDPs have themselves become volunteers and visitors to the center.

Currently, SHELTER+ visitors have access to a recording studio, a concert hall, a gym, a pottery workshop, training rooms, a music rehearsal facility, and other spaces where they can learn something new and communicate with like-minded people.

In fact, SHELTER+ helps people affected by the war not only to find housing, clothing, and food, but also to adapt to the socio-cultural environment of the new city. Many IDPs have discovered new talents and found the strength to live a full life thanks to the center's volunteers. It offers yet another example of Ukrainians making the best out of their country's darkest hour.

This material was prepared with financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation.