Arrels’ project began to take shape in the mid-80s through the efforts of about thirty people, linked to the parishes of Sant Pere Calver in Poble-Sec and Sant Miquel del Port in Barceloneta worried about homeless people in Barcelona. The priest Josep Maria Pañella (from Sant Pere Claver parish) was the leader of the project. A number of entities were soon added to the group, such as the Diocesan Secretariat of Marginalization, the Society of Jesus, the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception, the Daughters of Charity, St. John of God and Diocesan Caritas, as well as various individuals. At the time, there were hardly any services focused on this reality.
From El Raval to the Barcelona streets
In November of 1987, the group opened a centre in El Raval in Barcelona with a small living room, a shower with a water tank and a small closet. They soon realised that they could not rely on waiting for people to come to the centre, instead they had to go out into the streets to raise awareness about the centre and to create links and bonds of trust. The debate and reflection was continuous, with monthly meetings consisting of a growing group of volunteers and the first workers hired to guarantee the stability of services. In 1991, the Open Centre had already been expanded to include showers and a cloakroom; a street team and hospital team also already existed, as well as the Refugi, a night shelter. At this time, boarding houses were the only option to seek accommodation, so the Refugi became a place to pass through, like a space to rest from the hardships of life on the street.
From a flat to a residential home dream
Coinciding with the pre-olympic euphoria, Arrels opened a flat with the goal of offering a stable start to people who had a job, but the initiative did not work out because people were losing their autonomy and the entity could not offer the necessary support. Even then, Arrels kept looking to the future: pieces of land were bought where later, the Pere Barnés home was built and in 1994, we moved to the C/ Riereta, with more space to offer services to all the people that came to the Open Centre.
The entity grows and we constitute ourselves as a foundation
1997 to 2001 were years of growth. The Refugio project
transformed into the Housing Access Programme. And in 2001, the pre-employment workshop of La Troballa was born. To continue its work, Arrels added employees: educators, social workers, and, also, communication professionals to sensibilize citizens and internal administration. In 1998, Arrels presented itself as a foundation because, until then, it had worked under the umbrella of the Sant Pere Claver foundation.
We inaugurate the Pere Barnés home
At the beginning of the 2000s, Arrels offers housing to 80 people, between boarding houses and flats. Since 1987, the entity has looked after 5,500 people and carries out counts with the support of 180 volunteers that make our projects possible. We were also publicly recognized during these years: In 2003, The Social Welfare Council of Barcelona awarded us, in the Internet category, with the second prize for Mass Media, recognizing our website. In 2004, the Human Rights Institute awarded us with a Solidarity Prize and in 2005, the Catalan newspaper El Periódico recognised Arrels’ work with the Solidarity Initiative Award. The greatest success came in 2007 with the inauguration of the Pere Barnés home, a resource of temporary housing for homeless people, with 30 vacancies and 4 more for emergency situations.
We are steadier and we reach more people
From 2000 to 2010, Arrels increased its attention to more homeless people and with the Pere Barnés home functioning, it started its commitment to offer more stable housing to people. In 2008, for the first time and under the umbrella of the Network Care for Homeless People in Barcelona, a night recount took place to know how many people sleep on the street. In 2009, Arrels says goodbye to one of its founders, Josep Maria Pañella.
More housing and more stability
Arrels continues intensifying its attention to homeless people, increasing the number of vacancies in flats and rented rooms and working so the stay of people in a home can be stable over time. In this context, we work to give more of a voice to homeless people and encourage their involvement.
We promote “Housing First” and we open the Flat Zero
Arrels is committed to the Housing First model, which prioritizes access to individual, decent and stable housing that puts the person first and takes their opinion into consideration. To work towards this goal, the Social Work team and the Housing Support team merge into one team: the People Support team. Moreover, in 2016, Arrels organised the first census of people who sleep on the street in Barcelona, which is repeated every year in order to know more about their situation. In 2017, the Piso Cero is opened, a low requirement resource in El Raval that offers overnight housing to people who hadn’t found a place in another resource. And in 2018, we expanded the Arrels’ workshop so that more people can spend their time in a useful way.
We inaugurate las Llars Tere Villagrasa
At the end of 2022, Arrels launched a facility in Poblenou that aims to house and shelter people that live on the street and that, despite having passed through other resources, have not found a place that serves their needs. The facility, named Llars Tere Villagrasa, houses ten individual households and a ground floor where a dozen people can spend the night. The building carries the name Llars Tere Villagrasa in tribute to Teresa Villagrasa, a woman who ran the boarding house `Tere´ for decades and offered a home for lonely people in the city who had little resources and that we knew from Arrels. The act of putting her name on the new facility intends to highlight the importance of citizen engagement accompaniment of people that live on the street.