The right to a home is included in both the Spanish Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. Nevertheless, almost 4,900 people were supported in centres for homeless people in 2012 in Catalonia according to the Spanish Statistical Office (INE). In Barcelona, 3,000 people are homeless according to XAPSLL, and 892 people were found sleeping rough during the last count lead by Fundació Arrels in May 2015.
The Social Context
In recent years housing has become a central issue in the public debate because of serious problems such as barriers to home rental/ownership and the loss of previously available homes. Both these symptoms were evident in the years of economic boom (when housing prices were unaffordable) and the current period of economic crisis (in which making rent and mortgage payments is a constant struggle). The public, alongside various organisations and social movements, have highlighted the underlying social problem of residential exclusion. This problem already existed in cases of extreme poverty and deprivation, and finds its greatest exponent in the often-invisible phenomenon of homelessness.
What are the causes of homelessness?
The causes that lead to residential exclusion and rough sleeping are numerous. Traditionally, homeless people have been seen as having personal shortcomings, rendering them the only people responsible for their situation. This view, however, has changed over time. We now understand that the causes of homelessness are not just personal, but structural, institutional and interrelational, among others.
The commercial approach to economic and housing policy since the beginning of democracy in our country is one of the causes of homelessness—one that also hinders the reintegration of excluded people. Despite the large number of empty apartments that lie dormant in our cities, the chances of getting a home for someone who has no roof over their head is literally zero. A very small public housing stock (in Catalonia only about 1% of the total available housing) and access criteria that most homeless people do not meet, are just two examples of the many barriers a homeless person faces when trying to access housing.
It is possible!
One of the tasks of social organisations such as Mambré is to find ways of tackling these obstacles to achieve social inclusion for homeless people. Doing this is possible! Catalonia has the resources and means to do so. Public administration plays a key role, but the participation of other organisations, institutions, businesses and the public is also essential. We must work to provide housing for everyone, and to get rid of the stigma that people experiencing homelessness face.