More than a thousand people sleep on the streets in Barcelona every night. In Catalonia, being accurated, more than one thousand three hundred. Every night. People to whom we are breaching a long list of rights. The right to housing for people who need it and want it. The right to safety because many of them have experienced violence. The right to intimacy because throughout their whole life, everything they have done has been visible to others. The right to health because their life will be up to twenty years shorter than other citizens. And also the right to the truth; we believe that they are homeless because they want to be, because they are alcoholics, and because they will not accept any help.
If there are people sleeping on the streets, it’s not because they want to, but because we all accept it. Finland has made a clear commitment to avoid this situation and it’s proving possible because every day there are less people sleeping on the streets. However, the focus they give to those individuals without documentation is questionable.
In our country the figure keeps rising and there’s no sign of the situation reversing. We have very limited public housing and it is increasing at a very slow rate. If someone is sleeping on the streets it is because they do not have any housing, and without housing people will still feel obliged to sleep on the streets. So the question is, what can we do in the meantime? If the solution is housing, which we will not have for a long time, should we give up? The answer is no.
In the meantime we have to look for emergency solutions which, even if temporary, can improve people’s situation. Small places around the city where people can spend the night with their eyes closed and without having to worry about anything. That is perfectly viable now, and it’s necessary to do it whilst the housing situation remains unresolved. And they’re not just assumptions or ideas – our Foundation, Arrels, opened one nearly a year ago and it is working. Now we are looking for opportunities to open more.