Cold fills homeless shelters

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Ana Rodrigo |

Madrid (EFE) seen on the street Now he lives in a hostel which, with the drop in temperatures, increases the occupancy rate.

The nocturnal frosts that have been in place for days in most municipalities have forced the administrations to extend the reception and accommodation capacity for homeless people. Most cities, like Madrid, are launching “cold campaigns”, which represent 450 emergency beds and new healthcare resources in the capital.

The Red Cross has reinforced its street unit, the mobile units with which it travels at night to places where they usually spend the night, such as parks or open fields, to accompany them, offer them food and blankets, but above all the possibility of sleeping inside.

“We went out with 78 mobile units to find people who are living on the streets, to motivate them to go to sleep in a covered place, but if they don’t want to or are not prepared for this moment in their lives, we cover their basic needs so that they are as best as possible in their vulnerability,” Susana Royo, from the Red Cross Program for the Homeless, told Efe.

Over the past decade, homeless people living in centers have increased by 24.5%, reaching 28,552 in 2022, according to the survey on homeless people recently published by INE, although social entities recall that this figure could be 30% higher because it does not include those who live stably on the street.

During a visit to the San Juan de Dios shelter in Madrid, we see the faces of people who have been sleeping rough – some for a few weeks, others for several years. They are unemployed, students or migrants who carry stories of bad luck in some cases, and mental health problems in others.

Visit to the San Juan de Dios hostel in Madrid. From left to right, Abdellah, Ceferino and Armando. EFE/Zipi Aragon

Abdellah, 20, wants to be a policeman

He left a center for minors in Ceuta at the age of 18, arrived on the peninsula and now lives in the shelter of the Catholic institution.
“I am a normal boy who came to Spain from Morocco to fulfill the dream of playing football; I repair papers, I do some lessons and, in the meantime, I train in a neighborhood team,” Abdellah told EFE. The shelter provides accommodation, meals and support and leaves them free to go out to work or study.

“I slept on the street for several days, in parks, it’s normal for boys who leave the centers or who come from one side or the other, you have no other choice”, adds this young man, ready to take advantage of the opportunity and the support you have now. “I would like to be a national police to help people and return to Spain this favor they have done me.”

Unemployment and bureaucracy, Armando’s slabs

“In 24 hours you go from one situation to another, you don’t realize it, until the day you have no more money”, explains Armando Martínez, who was forced by a bad sequence of putting the lock on his business in 2013. “I lived on savings, I went back to my mother, they ran away and you see yourself in the street; Two weeks later, I had a heart attack.

Armando says he was involved in a journey of paperwork with social services, “which put up too many hurdles” that lengthened his situation. “I started a degenerative process in many organs of my body and in the end I had to come here because of my illness; being on the street exhausted me.

“The street is terror”, says a Colombian soldier

He arrived five months ago fleeing the Colombian guerrillas. “I spent several nights sleeping on the streets, and thank God I came here; The street is terrifying, you are very scared, you are captivated,” Ricardo Herrera, 45, told Efe. They help you process the application for international protection.

He lost a leg in a mine and knows it may limit his job search, but he is going to take training to try to work in the security sector, where he can apply his experience.

The struggle for a job to live in Spain

With intermittent jobs, Ceferino Pulgarín, a 53-year-old Colombian, has been in Spain for six years. “I made my living by putting up posters, painting, but not having a steady job, I can’t afford a room and I’m homeless.”

He will stay a few months at the shelter until he can live on his resources. He is very grateful because they gave him a hearing aid through the Gaes Foundation: “It will make it easier for me to find a job.”

The San Juan de Dios shelter, which has accumulated a waiting list of almost four months, refers immediate accommodation to other faster resources and gives priority to people with physical and mental health problems.

“There is a nurse waiting for the cases,” explains the social worker, who recalls that according to recent studies between 60 and 80% of homeless people have mental health problems.

“We also have young people who came to Madrid to try to study or who couldn’t find a job and had to apply for a place; We accompany them for a few months so that they can continue their studies or look for a job,” he says.

And he offers not to be warned. “You think of people lying on the street with a cart or on the ground with blankets, but there are a lot of very normalized people you would see on the street and you would think they weren’t in that situation.”

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