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 given support by centres for the homeless in 2012 in Catalonia, according to the Spanish Statistical Office (INE). In Barcelona, 3,941 people are homeless and 895 people were found sleeping rough during the last count lead by XAPSLL in May 2021.
The Social Context
In recent years, housing has become a central issue in public debate because of the gravity of problems relating both to difficulty accessing housing and the loss of available homes. Both of these symptoms were evident in the economic boom years (in which prices became inaccessible) and in 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 ones 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 individuals. Despite the large number of empty apartments in our cities, the chances of finding 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. The 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.