Living on the street damages health and shortens life expectancy. On average, someone that has lived on the street in Barcelona lives 20 years fewer than any other person in the city.
There are a lot of reasons: the cold in winter, the heat in summer, the stress of having to get by every day, the fear, the insecurity and the violence, the poor diet, the addictions in some cases and the lack of access to health.
Most of the people we accompany are in poor health due to some physical or mental illness; others are very elderly. When someone that we know starts living in a residence due to age or declining health, we keep accompany them. A team of volunteers visit them on a regular basis, checking on them and accompanying them in this new stage of their life.
How do we want to be treated when we spend our last days in a hospital? How do we want to be our last farewell? Do we want to be with family? These are important conversations to have to make sure we respect people’s wishes.
In 2017, we accompanied Antonio to record his favourite songs professionaly. It was one of his last wishes, and we made it come true.
At Arrels, we make sure each homeless person that we know can be accompanied until their final moments, and also after death.
One of the key parts of this accompaniment is listening to the person and respecting their decisions. Between 2007 and 2018 we have said goodbye to 269 people with an average age of 62 years old, which is 20 years younger than the age at death of the average Barcelona citizen.
At Arrels, we don’t want anyone to say goodbye in solitude. That’s why we accompany people we know who live or have lived on the street until their last moment of life. When someone dies, we take the responsibility of contacting the family, we coordinate burial services and we inform all members of the organization about the date and time of the burial. Our goal is that everyone can be buried with dignity and in company.
For many years, we have organized an intimate gathering to remember homeless people linked to the organization that have left us over the last twelve months.
In 2016, for the first time, we decided to make this ceremony public by moving the event into the streets, to give visibility to all those who have passed away in collaboration with other organizations in Barcelona.
Most of the people we accompany at Arrels have worked but they didn’t have value. That’s why they can’t have access to certain benefits like retirement pensions. In most cases, subsidies are not enough to have an autonomous life. Arrels works with other organizations to raise awareness and influencing public policy, demanding decent benefits that allow for an independent life.