Call for volunteers to measure homelessness in Barcelona

On the night of 17 May the sixth census will be conducted to see how many people sleep rough in the city. This is the first head count since the Plan to Combat Homelessness 2016-2020 was approved and will count the number of people sleeping rough in the streets as well as those at city facilities for the homeless. The aim of the exercise is twofold: to help improve the response capacity of services for the homeless and raise public awareness on the issue. Over nine hundred volunteers are expected to take part.

To take part in the census as a volunteer no previous experience is required. Participants must be over 18 and are recommended to have a mobile phone to be able to download the app. Volunteers, who will be organised into small groups of three to four people on the night of the census, should register using the online application form on the recompte.barcelona website, where they can indicate their preferred district.

The initiative by the Network of Attention to Homeless People (XAPSLL) forms part of the Citizen Agreement for an Inclusive Barcelona and brings together thirty organisations specialising in tackling homelessness.

The head count must provide a more accurate analysis of the phenomenon in the city. “That way we’ll be able to improve intervention and public policies”, noted the Deputy Mayor for Social Rights, Laia Ortiz. “Teamwork between entities and residents is the key to combining to combat the stigma and prejudices surrounding the homeless”, she added. Ortiz also explained that a snapshot of the current situation is important in gauging the issue and determining the best ways to tackle it.

Homelessness is not new, but has grown considerably in Barcelona in recent years because of the crisis. According to the 2008 census, 658 people were sleeping rough in the city. Last year that number reached 941, some 40% more in eight years. The number of people sleeping in special residential facilities grew even more in the same period, rising by 60% from 1,190 in 2008 to 1,907 in 2016.

The Plan to Combat Homelessness in Barcelona 2016-2020 is designed to help reverse situations of residential exclusion. The plan is structured around nine strategic areas, 24 objectives and 72 specific measures and has a 5 million euro budget to help improve and extend facilities offering support for the homeless.

Some 76% of people who sleep rough have been doing so for more than a year. According to Ortiz, this data shows that the lack of access to housing is intrinsically linked to homelessness. “The question of housing is poignant. The market permanently excludes people who can’t leave Barcelona either because it’s where support services for them are concentrated”, affirmed the Deputy Mayor. Labour precariousness and administrative exclusion of people of foreign nationalities are also factors which have contributed to the increase in the phenomenon.

Increased resources to combat homelessness

In November 2016 an accommodation facility with 48 individual places went into operation, with collective services for families, in C/ Sant Pere Més Baix. Also, in the Sant-Montjuïc district, the Cal Muns centre went into operation recently with 41 places for homeless people with mental health problems. In September another residential centre will be opening with 20 places for young people and in 2017 two more residences will be completed, one in C/ Tànger and the other in C/ Alí Bei. Both centres should start operating in 2018.