human development, social justice and sustainable social systems
A bus ride to debt
A testimony from Caritas Czech Republic
Our beneficiary, Alena, has a university degree and until a few years ago, nobody would guess that her life would turn the way it did. After a close family bereavement and subsequent mental health issues, she ended up on the street, sleeping rough.
Thanks to the assistance of Caritas and religious orders, providing psychological and material support, her situation started to consolidate – she is now accommodated in a lodging house, has found a job and her mental health is now relatively stable. But, from the period when she was living on the street, she has 24 Enforcement procedures for fines for ride without a ticket in the public transport. The transportation company sold 23 of them to the collection agencies. At the time, she could not pay the ticket and due to her mental health issues she did not realise the possible consequences.
The original price of the tickets added to CZK 576 (some €22). Together with the original fines, it added up to CZK 23 232 (some €890), but the amount that the bailiffs are reclaiming now is over CZK 400 000 (€15 000). This extremely high amount was reached due to “costs of the procedures” and “costs of the creditor”, calculated by the collection agencies. They claim CZK 20 000 – 29 000 (between €770 and €1 115) in each enforcement procedure (which is a 1000 times the cost of the ticket and more than 20 times the original fine). The collection agencies are an unregulated business, without any limits to the costs that they can claim from the debtor.
After all the personal progress that Alena has achieved, these debts are now the biggest obstacle for her to move on and find a standard flat to settle in. The debts are currently impossible for her to repay. Every month, she only receives about CZK 9 000 (some €350) from her employer to cover her living expenses, because the rest of her salary goes directly to the bailiffs. She is considering a personal bankruptcy process, but that would require her to be able to live on a tiny amount for another 5 years. She cannot understand why she needs to go through this, after her most difficult times living on the street, just because of rides in public transport without a ticket.