Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The harsh testimony of two street dwellers

Inma Fuentes and Jaime Mengual chat animatedly in a living room. They have known each other for a long time and get along very well. Both live on the street and have been able to get out of it, thanks to the Arrels Foundation, which helps the homeless.

Now, both volunteer for the organization and have a roof over their shelter. these two barcelona They know firsthand what it is like to sleep in the open, on a bench, in a corner, at the entrance of a place or on the ground of a street. Through which we pass daily, carrying cardboard, blankets and some other things.

Inma, 51, has been familiar with this harsh reality since she was a teenager.The age at which she was forced to live on the street with her parents. Welder Jaume, 63, has been on the road for 30 yearsStatus unknown for his two brothers, his ex-wife and their son.

Inma and Jam are volunteers at the Foundation.

“I got pregnant and my partner abused me”

Soon: Inma, tell me about your life before you end up on the road.

INMA Source: Well… a lot of things get mixed up. Family issues and my addiction to alcohol caused me to lose everything. I lived with my parents in my grandparents’ apartment and my father didn’t work. When we didn’t pay, they threw us out and I came out on the street with my parents. I was 15 years old.

Q: How was your life from that moment on?

If: worst. My parents knew about me, who was a teenager. We spent the morning sitting on a bench, we went to a soup kitchen in the afternoon and we begged in the shops. We lived like this for several months.

Question: Has anyone helped you?

If: Hmm… family, better stay away. We got some help from my mother’s family, but nothing from my father’s.

Q: How did you reach Arles?

If: Some street volunteers took my parents and me to the Foundation. At that time I was about 16 years old. He helped me from the first moment, even though I was a crazy goat and surrounded myself with bad company.

Q: How has your life changed?

If: They provided us with a flat, I started studying to be a geriatric assistant and I got out of my bad life. While I was studying, I used to get occasional jobs. The money I earned was given to my parents, until I found out that my mother spent it on slot machines. From there I disconnected the tap. At that time I also met a guy who was in the organization and I got pregnant at the age of 19.

Q: And what happened from there?

If: He misbehaved with me. The turning point came when he beat up my son, who was then 6 years old, leaving him in a coma. He has recovered and is doing well, his two daughters are married. At that point, I had to give the baby to my ex-sister-in-law so they wouldn’t take it from me. I went back to the street and went to Arles again. It is because of him that I have moved forward. Otherwise I don’t know where I would be. The foundation has given me stability, a home, I have been able to have my son back and they have also helped me think more about myself.

Q: What’s the most difficult experience you’ve had?

If: Uh… (gets excited). The most difficult thing, living on the street with my parents, because they are two elderly people, and we were all in danger.

Q: Tell me about your day-to-day.

If: Until recently he had a partner, another Arrels volunteer who had recently died of cancer. I had depression and didn’t want to see anyone, because of everything and because of his death. Now, I try to come to Areles and tell my experience, however many people don’t want to listen to you.

Q: And how do you face the future?

If: I want to continue helping the foundation and looking for a job. In my spare time, I try to read and do theatre, which I love.

“No one in my family knows I’ve been on the street for 30 years”

Jaime Mengual is a volunteer at a craft workshop in Arles. For the past three years, he lives with his dog, Laika, in an apartment donated by the Barcelona City Council.

Q: What was your life like before you were put on the street?

James Mangle: I’m from Badalona and I started working as a welder’s apprentice at the age of 14, a profession that I developed until I was thirty. I got married at the age of 23 and have a son who is already a father of two. He lives in Italy with his family and my ex-wife.

Q: How did you become homeless?

JM: After separation, I returned to my parents’ house. Later, they moved to Murcia and I lived in the rented apartment where they were. At that time, he worked as a porter in nightclubs and music pubs. I lost my monthly payment for a few months, I couldn’t make the house payment and they fired me.

Q: Did you ask for help?

JM: No. Even though I see myself in an extreme position, I don’t want to. Many of us on the street don’t want our families to know. To this day, my two brothers do not know where I am and neither do my parents, who are now dead. Right now, I have no contact with my brothers, neither with my ex-wife nor with my son, who has turned against me. I know he’s okay, and I’m glad, but I’d rather he knew nothing about me.

“With effort and willpower, you can get off the road”

Q: Tell me about your experience on the road.

JM: I was 30 years old. I went to the soup kitchen, showered in Arles, and did a few jobs. You learn a lot on the road. I met a group of seven or eight people who were in my position, together we confronted gangs of boys who used to attack women. The road also makes great friendships, as I met a couple who have a 3-year-old girl, who I am godfather to.

Q: How did you come to the Foundation?

JM: I had already come across that slogan which was in the place which exists now. I left my stuff here.

Q: What would you say to people who are going through what you just experienced?

JM: That with effort and willpower you can get off the road. Nobody wants to sleep outside. If all the people sleeping on the street were allowed to help, there would be very few people.

Ferran Busquets: “85% to 90% of the homeless are men”

Ferran Busquets, director of the Areles Foundation.

Made in 1987, Arrels Foundation has been caring for people living on the street for over three decades and offer accommodation in their 41-bed accommodation or in one of their 130 flats. We spoke to its director, Ferran Busquets.

Coming Soon: How Does Arrels Help the Homeless?

Ferran wanted: One thing that sets us apart is exclusivity, as we only focus on people who sleep on the street. In Arrels we provide guidance and there are showers, a laundry service and lockers to leave your luggage. We have another space, which is a shop and a vocational workshop, where people can develop their skills, regain their self-esteem and feel useful. He receives an incentive for this and, if in addition to this, a corresponding job arises, then remuneration.

Foundation provides the possibility of washing clothes.

Q: What is the profile of a homeless person?

FB: There are those that have been there for a few days and others that are in chronic condition, in which we are more concentrated. The latter have more difficulty re-entering the labor market. 85 to 90% of the people living on the streets are men. Women shun the street, as they may be victims of attacks, and many are invisible. Living without a roof takes years off your life and is very offensive psychologically and biologically. Besides, people are prejudiced against the homeless and no one likes to live on the street. When they are like this, it is because they have no other choice.

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