Arrels publishes guide ‘Living on the street in Barcelona’ with practical advice for homeless people

Every day at Arrels, we attend to around five to seven people who live on the street and don’t know where to go to ask for help and whom we try to advise about the resources available in the city. We created a practical guide that compiles more than 70 resources that people can Access directly and includes 50 tips from people who live or have lived on the street. It’s also a useful tool for citizenry. 

Last year, 1,360 people came to Arrels asking if they could shower, store their belongings in the cloakroom or if we had housing so they didn’t have to sleep in the street. Since the beginning of this year, we have advised more than 450 people, or five to six people daily. At Arrels, we can’t meet every need, but we try to guide people to resources that exist in the city of Barcelona that may be helpful.

In order to better provide this guidance, we created a guide that gathers more than 70 public and private resources that exist in Barcelona and that homeless people can access directly, without needing a social worker. “Many of these people don’t have a social worker who knows their situation. This means, for example, not being able to go to a public dining room because a social worker is needed for the process,” explains Marta Maynou, who is in charge of Arrels’ street team and open centre.

The goal is to have a useful tool for people who have been living on the street in Barcelona for a shorter time or who still have ability and autonomy, and to offer information that helps the person and does not generate false expectations.
The publication of this guide can also be useful for residents of Barcelona; last year, in fact, Arrels received 1,730 tips from Barcelona residents concerned for people sleeping on the street. “We want to involve citizens and answer a question that they often ask us, which is what they can do when they see someone sleeping on the street in Barcelona,” says Arrels director Ferran Busquets.

Advice from people who live on the street

The guide Living on the street in Barcelona also includes opinions and advice from five people who have lived on the street for a short amount of time and who wanted to share their experience with practical tips such as the following:

  • The shelter is usually full, with a waiting list of days or weeks. If you have a phone and leave your number, they will call you.
  • On the street, don’t lie directly on the ground. Look for cardboard or some insulating material.
  • Look for a safe place. Waiting rooms in hospitals, stations and the airport air an option. Remember that these are private spaces with rules that will determine what businesses allow you to stay there.
  • If you bathe or wash your clothes in a fountain, you can be punished.
  • Be ready to walk, because the resources are far from one another.

A map that shows a reality

The guide that we prepared gathers more than 70 resources to which a person can go directly, with useful information about where to eat, sleep, shower or wash clothes. Others go further and explain what to do if you suffer an aggression, how to defend your rights, where to get help looking for employment, etc.

It is also accompanied by a map so that people can orient themselves more easily and, beyond this use, show a reality:

  • There are few resources for sleeping and they are dispersed. A person that goes to a shelter may stay there while they find another resource that will provide stability but, at the moment, it is very difficult for the person to face real estate prices.
  • If you live on the street and you want to access a shelter, you have to wait up to two or three months and, consequently, you must be prepared to live on the street during that time.
  • There are different shower services, but they are inadequate because the person cannot shower as many times as needed during the week. There are also no spaces to store your belongings when you live on the street or have been kicked out of housing.
  • There are no adequate laundry services that people can access directly. There are also other basic services not covered: what happens if someone suffers an aggression? How can you get a medical check-up if you can only go to an emergency room? What alternatives do you have if you do not feel comfortable at a shelter?
  • Planning your life when you live on the street is difficult because you have to spend a lot of time moving from one place to another to eat, shower or sleep.

“The current system doesn’t help because there is no time for you to move forward. Everyone needs these basic resources to survive but, once covered, you should be able to think about other things,” says Marta Maynou. Because of this, at Arrels we ask public officials to look for solutions and allocate the resources needed to ensure that no one has to live on the street. “In the long term it is necessary to obtain housing but, while the problem of lack of housing persists, we also need temporary solutions, like low-requirement spaces,” adds Arrels’ director.

Resources to live, not to survive

A person ends up living on the street for a variety of reasons and they have to do with the person themselves but also with the society in which we live. To fight homlessness, you don’t just need basic food, hygiene and rest services; the problem is more complex.

A person can only begin to recover from a life on the street when the have a safe place to live. More personalized social care is needed: support services for mental health, economic stability, rebuilding social circles, not having to wait weeks or months to access a shelter, acting immediately to keep the situation from becoming chronic…

Betting on these more transformative resources is an economic investment but, in the long run, more benefits are obtained for the homeless and society. All of this, plus we must focus even more on preventative policies so that no one loses their home.


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