Rough Night

Homeless in Plaça dels Angels, Barcelona

Plaça dels Angels, Barcelona. The square is home to both Barcelona’s main modern art museum, and possibly the largest collection of homeless people in the city. There is a seemingly endless supply of old mattresses that provide at least some comfort in the night, but the unseasonably wet and cold weather at the moment is problematic. In a curious twist on the banking crisis many homeless people are now sleeping inside the lobbies of local banks to avoid the weather.

The number of homeless people in the city has increased dramatically since 2008, and there seems to be no solution. The city council regularly attempts to clear Plaça dels Angels by sending in cleaners with high-pressure water hoses and accompanying police officers. But this simply displaces the problem – it does not address any of the fundamental causes.

It is also surprising the kind of people now seen on the streets. There has always been a large proportion of homeless migrants from the UK and Ireland, but increasingly now there are local people – sometimes in their 50’s – that simply appear to have fallen on bad times.

Spain is wealthy enough, even after the financial crisis, to combat this. But mainstream political will here always seems more focussed on tax bribes for the next election and manoeuvres to sustain the endemic political corruption.