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Working for those at the other end of the social scale

The Fundació Arrels (Arrels Foundation) works to assist Barcelona homeless people. Just in the Catalan capital there are more than 2,000 homeless people. The foundation receives 65% of their funds from private citizens and companies.


10 April 2012 07:36 PM


Ariane Schönbächler

Barcelona (CNA).- Barcelona is a fantastic city and a popular destination for tourists. Each year thousands of tourists travel to Catalonia to enjoy the sunny side of life and explore a city that continually reinvents itself. But the fact that more than 17% of the Catalan population lives in poverty is not mentioned in any city guide. In Barcelona alone there are more than 2,000 people homeless.

But how does this happen? How can a person fall out of his natural social network and fall so far, that he finally ends up living on the street? According to Juan Remus from the Fundació Arrels (Arrels Foundation) a man\u2019s social surrounding rests on four pillars: the family, health, job and the social environment. If two of the four pillars begin to sway the risk of social decline already exists. If a third pillar collapses, the chance of ending up homeless is acute.

Social decline

Most of the effects do not show up immediately. State organisations and social networks help people for a limited time. Should they not make within that time by themselves, these sources of help dry up. \u201CThe people who are now homeless will call us for help in about 5 years," according to Juan Remus.

Social decline is often accomplished with mental stress and often leads to alcoholism. The feeling of helplessness, shame and social isolation increases as situation gains momentum.

At the bottom of the economic pile

Organisation volunteers patrol once a week visiting all districts of the city of Barcelona searching for the homeless and advising them that help is available if they want it. "Often we see people completely starving. Many homeless people live on sugared wine and are in very poor health". The Arrels Foundation provides beds, clothing and food as well as ensuring that medical care is available.

In December 2011a new guide for the homeless was published entitled \u2018On Menjar, Dormir i Rentarse\u2019 (literally translated into English as \u2018Where to eat, sleep and clean oneself\u2019). The guide gives information about possible beds, food and hygienic facilities which the homeless can use.

The long road back to social integration

According to Juan Remus, it is very important to raise awareness within society of these social grievances and create a higher acceptance towards these subjects. "We should not treat homeless people as objects but as people who have a background and have a destiny".

If someone has descended socially to such a degree, the way back up proves to be very difficult. These people are also mentally and physically traumatized. Social integration can only succeed by helping them find a daily routine. They need to learn again to take up the responsibility for their own lives and duties. The Arrels Foundation makes sheltered workshops available to the homeless and organises recreational activities to keep them engaged and to give them fresh hope.

How can I help?

The Arrels Foundation has an annual budget of about 2.4 million euros but only 35% is covered by government subsidies. The remaining 65% is financed by private patrons as well as by various small and medium sized companies within Barcelona. In order to provide the necessary assistance the foundation depends on donations and volunteer workers. If you would like to become a sponsor or apply as volunteer you can find all relevant information on


Annual Key data about the Arrels Foundation

50 permanent workers

256 Volunteers

1,121 attended people

43,095 daily meals

1,188 medical visits and document applications

52 people received judicial advice

30 people with severe mental disorders received psychiatric treatment

170 people used the storage room

5,310 hygiene services

26,431 pieces of clothes given out


  • A homeless person in Barcelona (by J. Remus)

  • A homeless person in Barcelona's downtown (by J. Remus)

  • A homeless person in Barcelona (by J. Remus)
  • A homeless person in Barcelona's downtown (by J. Remus)