This morning we presented in the Parliament of Catalonia a bill to address homelessness that will respond to the situation of people living on the street, staying overnight in shelters or living in temporary facilities. This proposed law must guarantee their right to have a decent residential space and is a pioneer law in Europe in terms of legal protection. The law must also regulate the actions and services that public administrations should develop in Catalonia to guarantee the rights of homeless people.
Joint press release of the entities that have been involved in the proposed law.
This morning, Assís Care Center, Arrels Fundació, Càritas Catalunya, The Community of Sant’Egidio and Sant Joan de Déu Social Services have presented in the Parliament of Catalonia a bill to address homelessness urgently.
The legal text has been promoted and directed by Antoni Milian i Massana, professor of Administrative Law at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), with the collaboration of Vicenç Aguado i Cudolà, professor of Administrative Law at the Universitat de Barcelona (UB), Lídia Pitarch, professor and doctor in Human Security and Global Law (UAB) and Raquel Prado and Almudena González, professors of Administrative Law (UB).
The proposed legal text of transitional and urgent measures to address and eradicate homelessness has entered the Parliament of Catalonia as a bill signed by most of the parties of the Parliament (parliamentary groups Socialists i Units per Avançar, Esquerra Republicana, Junts per Catalunya, Candidatura d’Unitat Popular – Un Nou Cicle per Guanyar, En Comú Podem, Ciutadans and the Mixed Group), with the aim of discuss the bill and approve it. In addition, the text has the support of 35 social entities of first, second and third tier and 5 professional associations.
The law is especially aimed at responding to those who suffer a more chronic, harsher situation of homelessness, the one that draws our attention for its roughness. For this reason, the text is intended to address situations that correspond to the first three operational subcategories of the European ETHOS classification. Specifically, these are people who live on the streets in Catalonia, who spend the night in overnight stays or live in specific facilities for homeless people. This choice provides a response to the most serious situations, allowing a homogeneous and comprehensive legal treatment of the problem. In 2016, it was estimated that about 10,000 people were living in homelessness (subcategories ETHOS 1,2 and 3). Specifically, 2,855 lived in a public space or outdoors, 4,120 spent the night in a shelter, forced to spend the rest of the day in a public space, and 2,982 lived in homeless centers, shelters or temporary housing. The entities promoting the initiative consider that the figure has increased exponentially during these six years, estimating that 18,000 people are currently in this situation (80% more compared to 2016). Today, the five entities promoting the initiative offer almost 3,600 residential places.
The aim of this proposed legal text is to put an end to the situation experienced by people sleeping on the streets of towns and cities in Catalonia, achieving the protection, promotion and full emancipation of homeless people, as well as regulating by law the actions and services that public administrations should carry out in Catalan territory to guarantee the rights of homeless people.
On behalf of the promoting entities, Jaume Castro, head of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Barcelona, has contextualized the proposed law. Castro pointed out that the law “has been possible thanks to a successful synergy between civil society, institutions and the academic world”. Castro stated that “homeless people are the most forgotten in society” and that this law “constitutes a general framework with concrete solutions to ensure dignity and humanity in the treatment of these people”. The result of the law has been a comprehensive and rigorous body of legislation. “A pioneering law in the European legislative context and may constitute a new foundation in the structuring of the welfare state.” As we begin to see the end of the pandemic, Castro pointed out that the law “is important to open a new era, because if we rethink the functioning of society starting from the last ones, we will be able to face the problems of all of us”.
Salvador Maneu, director of Sant Joan de Déu Social Services of Barcelona, continued the intervention on behalf of the entities, stressing that homelessness is a complex reality that can only be addressed through the sum of efforts and the collective will to put an end to it. “We are confident that this will be the law of the legislature,” he said, stressing that from an economic point of view it is a law that does not require a large expenditure and that will have a very high social return. Maneu emphasized that the drafting of the law has meant “an unprecedented alliance of the academic world and the third social sector” and “we must give value to the sum of complicities until reaching the Parliament of Catalonia today”. In the last three years, they have been looking for adhesions and mutual understandings so that this bill has a wide support of the third social sector, professional associations and municipal entities. “We arrive here today having met and listened to all political parties and various departments and general directorates”.
For his part, Antoni Milian Massana, Professor of Administrative Law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, highlighted the characteristics of the law. “The creation of the concept of a decent residential space —assured Milian— would make it possible to eradicate the situation of people living on the street by incorporating this service as a guaranteed benefit in the portfolio of social services”. The proposal consists of a law that connects with the law on the right to housing, but it is not a housing law. For the professor “to process and approve a text aimed at eradicating the most chronic homelessness, is today an urgent moral duty that cannot be postponed”. And he ended his presentation by paraphrasing some words of Martin Luther King, saying that homelessness “not only corrodes the people […] who suffer from it […], but also morally corrodes the whole society that tolerates it”.
Residential spaces, registration and access to basic services in Catalonia
The proposed legal text is a novelty in the European legislative context, since it introduces the basis of law to ensure the dignity of homeless people. Specifically, it adds the concept of dignified residential space for all people who are in the first three operational subcategories of the European ETHOS classification, guaranteeing within two years the right to have a decent residential space or autonomous housing. Salvador Busquets, director of Cáritas Diocesana de Barcelona, has stated that the law ensures the obligation of registration in all municipalities —even if the person lives on the street—, guaranteeing access to the public system of social services, health care and promoting the exercise of the right to the benefit of the guaranteed income of citizenship or to be beneficiaries of the minimum vital income. This proposal highlights the importance of establishing territorial equity, which is currently lacking.
For his part, Ferran Busquets, director of Arrels, pointed out that the law establishes the obligation to carry out counts and surveys in the municipalities of Catalonia with more than 50,000 inhabitants, with the aim of measuring the problem of homelessness and draw up a map of homelessness in Catalonia. Also, having interdisciplinary street teams; the right to low-demand centers and basic hygiene services and lockers to store belongings; the explicit prohibition of municipal ordinances to classify the practice of begging as an administrative offense, the protection of personal data; the right to public space and the gender perspective in resources and social care are some of the actions and services included in the proposed law and that is put on the table of public administrations.
To conclude, Jesús Ruiz, director of ASSÍS Care Centre, has asked to encourage collaboration between the different administrations, as well as to take into account the pre-existence of other invisible forms of homelessness, as is the case of female homelessness, which highlights the need for specific forms of intervention. “The municipal action plans must foresee the needs required in each case by the gender perspective, including the fact of having to have, in the case of women, adequate or differentiated spaces that allow them to rebuild their life project, and that guarantee privacy and personal development,” he said.
You can consult here the proposed law:
Proposició_de_llei_sensellarisme (in catalan).