Billions of people experience homelessness in the world (1), and its causes and forms are diverse. Therefore, it requires answers that go beyond providing a home but which also include wider and more holistic aspects. For example, the provision of psychological support and the promotion of independent and dignified living.
This is what the Daughters of Charity are doing in Asturias, together with other Vincentian branches (AIC, SSVP and AMM) and two collaborating bodies (Cajastur and Alimerka foundations) with the project: ‘Welcoming people who experience homelessness’. This started in February 2020 and is part of the 13 Houses Campaign to respond to the thousands (2) of people experiencing homelessness in Spain.
The aim of the project is to provide a safe home for vulnerable families (often refugees (3) ) who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. To date, the project has five apartments: three in Oviedo, one in Gijón and one in Avilés. Based on the charisma of its founder: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Matthew, 25:35-40), the project does not only aim to provide a home. In addition, the project aims to offer many tools as possible to support people to live their lives independently and with dignity.
Among the various services offered by the project, there is the provision of food via soup kitchens, and support offered with job searches and residence-permit applications. The families often come from very difficult previous circumstances, and need the time and space to be adequately supported. One of the beneficiaries coming from Colombia to Spain said:
“We lived in an unsanitary basement, in unsuitable conditions, we suffered for the situation, especially for our son. […] With the support of people from the project team of the ‘13 Houses’, we have had, not only housing but food, basic necessities, the possibility of finding small jobs to move towards greater autonomy.”
Thanks to all these services in place, the apartments are temporary accommodation for families who will be able to gradually gain their independence.
The words of a person experiencing Vincentian action against homelessness
“There are so many stories!
But life is not something that fits on a page, yes, that’s right, we are part of this story, although we never thought that this would happen to us.
Just close your eyes and imagine that we are still in our beloved Venezuela, which by fate we had to leave, for wanting to defend our thinking and for many other reasons that it is not important to explain here too much in detail. Just think of us as a family of three people – mom, dad and daughter – forced to leave everything we have built during years of work without knowing when we will see our families again, asking God every day to give us a lot of strength not to lose hope to be able to embrace our parents again.
However, in all this tide of feelings, we have also experienced the grace of God and the will of people who today we can call our “guardian angels” and who helped us not to plunge into an abyss of despair.
Today we can say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that the nobility of the human being exists, thanks to those who run organizations such as FHA, with its 13 Houses project in Asturias that from the first day offered us everything we needed to alleviate our suffering.
I still remember with great joy when we received a call from our dear Sister Evelia, ‘our angel’, with tears in her eyes, saying: “We have obtained a flat for you“. I will never forget those words since from that moment our life changed, today we live in a cosy apartment, full of many things that are not necessarily material, where we have learned to understand the words: ‘solidarity’, ‘affection’, ‘coexistence’, among many others.
We share a flat with a girl from Colombia and her 5 year old daughter, together we are one family. Here, we receive all kinds of help: moral, social, psychological, and also employment support. This is why we want to sincerely thank all these people who make these projects possible and we hope that one day we will be also able to give back to the community and help other people in need as well.”