What does the word “coverage” mean? At this time, in which the Internet has become an essential part of our lives, the first thing that comes to mind is mobile coverage, staying connected. Stay within a network that protects us, recognizes and validates us. But, on a more specific level, it can also refer to health coverage, social coverage… In short, it is a word that condenses within itself a series of rights and services that, however, are not guaranteed for everyone. For this reason, the associations and services that participate in the Day of the Homeless in Madrid, among which is Cáritas Madrid and which is coordinated by the FACIAM Networkhave come together to publicly present the 2022 Homeless People Campaign under the slogan “Out of Coverage”, and in which they have stressed that “being homeless goes far beyond being homeless”.
“It is a reality that thousands of people live every day,” they underline from Cáritas Madrid. For this reason, the profile of all those who do not have a home to return to every day is “diverse and heterogeneous”. There is no age of risk, nor a social position. “What we have been able to verify is that any person can end up in a situation of homelessness, regardless of age or sex, or their social, educational, economic or family situation, “adds the organization. In fact, the number of these people has only increased in recent years. And, specifically, there are more and more young people: according to data from the FACIAM Network, 30% of the people accompanied by the organization in a situation of homelessness are in that age group. Along the same lines, the growth of homeless women also stands out, since, according to statistical data and attention from these organizations, women represent around 25% of people in this problem.
This is precisely the case of Kimberly, a young Peruvian who arrived in Spain at the age of 19 with her mother, brother and stepfather. She is now 22, and she has already been through various help centers for being homeless. And it is that a trip that should have become a better life ended up being hell. «My torment began five days after arriving in Madrid», says the young woman. It was Christmas, and they were at the home of relatives of her stepfather. It was then, when she witnessed an attack on her mother, that she learned for the first time that she was a victim of gender-based violence. “I reacted and confronted him,” she says. Something that would provoke not only the anger of the aggressor, but would unleash the consequences of what her life has been up to now. “Since we were in the house of some of his relatives, he decided to throw me out of there,” she recalls. “He told me to grab my things and go.”
It was the first time Kimberly was in Spain, so she didn’t know anyone. “Obviously, being alone, not having friends or family, I stayed on the street,” she says. At that time, her mother came out to defend her, so her stepfather decided to leave her too, as well as the two-year-old son that the now ex-partner has in common. «Suddenly we found ourselves in the street, very scared and without eating. It was December 25, it was cold, and my brother, who is a sick child and was two years old at the time, was very scared,” he says. It was Christmas day, yes, but nevertheless, there were people working in the streets. People who normally go unnoticed. “What saved us was that a woman who was a social worker for victims of gender violence approached us, and she tells us that they could help us,” Kimberly acknowledges.
That woman took them to an office, where her mother told them about the case. “I found out here that she had been a victim of violence for many years,” she acknowledges. After that, they were taken to a women’s protection house, where they were able to stay for almost a year and a half because they were caught by the pandemic. Later they were taken to another center, a flat for the three of them. “There I began to study, trying to validate and improve the studies I had in Peru,” says the young woman, who worked as a health professional in the nursing area in her native country. However, they were unable to stay there for long as it was temporary accommodation. “They told us that we had to start look for something on our own», he points out. But, in a situation in which they do not have papers, with her mother accompanying her brother to different medical appointments almost every day, it was very difficult for them to maintain themselves autonomously. “Then I started looking for work, and it was a big shock because in Peru she worked as a nurse and here she did it as a cleaner or a housewife,” she admits. But the worst of all was discovering to what extent people can take advantage of such a situation. “In this type of work where you are not protected by anything or anyone, you end up being mistreated by the people who hire you, because they don’t even consider you a person worthy of respect,” she explains.
The family had to leave the apartment where they were, but a friend left them a house for a week. “Then the snow came, Filomena, and they took us to a shelter, and there they took my mother to a flat with my brother, but I couldn’t go because I was of legal age,” she says. Once again Kimberly was on the street, “but this time she was worse, because she was totally alone.” It was then that a friend told her about Caritas. “Thank God they received me. the truth that in the CEDIA project of Caritas Madrid, both the workers and the women who are there become your family”, he assures. “Now I have friends who are my sisters, my support”, she continues, since “when I was bad for not being with my brother and my mother, they helped me”. Now Kimberly lives in a flat with other young people, and, as she is about to get her residency in Spain, she is going to start studying medicine. “It’s what I want most right now,” she says. However, she will remain alone. “My mother and brother are going back to Peru with my grandparents,” she says. “It was difficult for them to stay here because my brother has level 2 autism and he is a child at risk because he was born with encephalopathy,” she explains. “What my mother needs is support. She had to take care of my brother, take him to the doctor, to therapy… so she can’t work. She practically ran out of life. That’s why she’s coming back.” Now, Kimberly’s goal is to stay in Spain to have a better future and thus be able to help them even from a distance.
Kimberly is one of those cases that breaks with what society believes is the stereotype of a homeless person. “It is necessary that, as a society, we know the reality of homelessness to destigmatize homeless people, since, for different reasons, they are forced to start from scratch”, says Susana Hernández, president of FACIAM. In the same way, she underlines the need to provide them with resources so that they can achieve it. “With the necessary support, people can move forward towards an autonomous life, as we see with these cases; For this, we are committed to the absolute centrality of people and families in a situation of homelessness, and to maintain the perspective of human rights globally », she explains.
For all these reasons, the collaborating entities and members of the FACIAM network have appealed to public administrations, society and to the media to eliminate these stereotypes and, above all, to implement “measures that guarantee the rights and dignity of homeless people, so that they have access to the necessary resources that allow them to come out of exclusion and start a normalized life on their own”. Likewise, they ask citizens to “move towards a caring society, where we mutually protect the life of each person, without leaving any of us (especially the most vulnerable), where we take care of what is common to us, the environment, relationships , ties, rights and coexistence».