Written by: Tiobe
Recession hurts, no matter where in the world it occurs, it has a very human toll. In Spain, a nation officially in economic recession for the last two years, that toll is a bit shocking.
Nearly 30 percent of all children in Spain live in poverty, according to the United Nations Children Fund.
Spain’s unemployment rate is at nearly a quarter of the population, or one in four people without jobs.
Even amongst those who are employed, 13 percent of these are classified as working poor, or those with full-time employment still living in poverty.
Depending on whom you ask, the number of homeless in Spain ranges between 20,000 to 40,000 people. And no wonder: during the first six months of 2014 alone, over 37,000 people were evicted from their homes.
A staggering 3.4 million homes currently sit vacant in Spain or about 14 percent of the total housing stock in Spain. To put his into perspective, that is enough to provide homes for every single homeless person in the entire European continent.
There have been over 569,000 foreclosures in Spain since 2007. In the autonomous region of Catalonia, local governments have allegedly threatened to fine banks up to $138,000 for homes that remain vacant for two years or more, or even to compel the banks to turn over these homes for social housing.
Many of Spain’s homeless population sleep “rough,” or on the streets, regardless of weather or safety.
“On the street I feel vulnerable, so inferior. You lose your dignity and it’s hard to get it back. I want out of this,” said 40 year-old homeless Miguel Arregui to the Inter Press Service (IPS).
“It’s easy to end up on the street. It’s not because you led a bad life; you lose your job and you can’t afford to pay rent,” said David Cerezo.
There are, thankfully, organizations working to change this reality, however.
One of these is Ángeles Malagueños de la Noche, or Málaga Angels of the Night, which provides hot meals and shelter for the homeless of Malaga. When the shelter is full up, the organization provides blankets to those needing warmth for the night.
Another group working to stem the damage of homelessness in Spain is the RAIS Foundation. Along with devising innovative ideas to combat homelessness, the RAIS Foundation also works against hate crimes and discrimination against Spain’s most vulnerable populations.
The main focus of the RAIS Foundation is providing homeless individuals with their most immediate need: shelter. The foundation tries to relocate those living on the streets or in shelters to their own apartments or within community housing projects. While this may seem obvious, this goes a long way to restoring stability and dignity for these individuals.
“The system could use a turn of the screw, to provide permanent and unconditional housing, in first place,” said RAIS director José Manuel Caballol to IPS. “The results are spectacular. The people are so happy, they take care of their house and of themselves because they don’t want to lose what they have.”
The RAIS Foundation and other non-governmental organizations have assisted about 50 individuals in this manner since July 2014.