In Barcelona, more than 1,000 people sleep on the street every night. The right to a decent housing is included in the Spanish Constitution and in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. But, there are in Catalonia about 53,000 people who have severe housing problems. 5,500 of these people live on the street.
Ensure someone to stop living on the street is not easy. And you cannot do anything against their will. It is not a police issue, but a social care issue. And it is necessary to respect people’s paces and needs.
We visit the most chronic people that are living on the streets of Barcelona to know how are they, establish a bond of trust and know their needs. The street team tours regularly six areas of the city (Eixample, Ciutat Vella, Sants-Montjuïc, Gràcia, Sant Martí, Sant Andreu) and it also visits some people in a serious situation of social exclusion in the rest of the areas.
In 2020, we have visited 681 people.
When some of the people we visit in the street wants to sleep under a roof, we try to find them a proper housing according to their needs: a room in a shared flat, an individual flat or the possibility to sleep in the Flat Zero, an Arrels’ low-requirement space for people who have been living on the streets for a long time and haven’t found another resource. What’s important is to guarantee a stable housing.
Thanks to the Arrels Tracker app, we collect citizens’ warnings about people that are living on the street. If the person is in Barcelona, we mobilise our street team and we network along other teams of the city to find the better way to address the situation. This tool is also useful beyond the city, to locate specific locations and measure the problem in other territories. That’s why we provide it to other areas that also work with homeless people.
We work alongside with the City Council and the Team of Mental Health for Homeless People (Equipo de Salud Mental para Personas Sin hogar (ESMES) to improve the assistance to people and make the resources more effective than the existing ones. In the spectrum of the assistance net for homeless people (XAPSLL), we also participate in annual recounts of homeless people to measure the problem in the city.
A recount is a picture of the number of people that are sleeping on the street in a specific area in a specific night. To know how many people are sleeping rough is key to impulse useful policies and resources. Nowadays, a dozen of catalan areas have organised recounts but the figure is still very small. At Arrels, we have created a practical guide to encourage other areas so we can extend the figures of homelessness around Catalonia.
Since 2016, Arrels organises the census of homeless people in Barcelona to know how much they suffer and, with this information, guide the policies and the resources so they can be more efficient. In 2019, we interviewed 347 people and we know that 78% is living in a situation of high or medium vulnerability. The action is part of a European campaign that pretends eradicate homelessness and to which 11 European cities have joint.
When you live on the street you find yourself in a especially vulnerable situation brought to justice. Especially if you do not know your rights and duties. The legal service gives advice to people we assist when they get a fine for sleeping, drinking, or peeing on the street, when they have to renew or apply for some personalo documentation, they have been victims of fraud or assault or they have a pending criminal case. According to the 2019 census, 38% of interviewed people say that hey have been victims of physical or verbal assault.
At Arrels, we promote talks of awareness to explain young people what does it mean to live on the street hand in hand with people who have lives rough and share their story.
We like these visits because they make a lot of questions: “How did you feel when you were living on the street? Did you suffer violence? How did you recover? And now, what do you think when you see somebody sleeping rough?” And their answers help to break prejudices.