"Thanks to Caritas, I not only have a home, but a family."

This week, the Spanish diocesan Caritas presented their 2020 data, marked by the consequences of Covid.

Maria José Atienza-June 3, 2021-Reading time: 4 minutes

Vanesa, a university student and Ana, unemployed, homeless and mother of two children, have given voice to the data presented today by Caritas Madrid which, like most of the diocesan Caritas in Spain, have presented, this week, their 2020 data, marked by the consequences of Covid that has hit the most vulnerable economies.

State of social alarm

Although the health emergency caused by the coronavirus has decreased significantly in our country, its consequences in the social and labor field are far from recovery, especially for the most precarious economies, which are always the first to suffer the crisis and the last to recover. This is one of the conclusions shared by the different diocesan Caritas in their reports for 2020.

Not surprisingly, in the presentation of its 2020 Report, the director of Caritas Madrid has highlighted that during the first months of the pandemic, the requests for help to Caritas Madrid tripled and more than 85 % of the requests were for social needs, mainly food, supplies, housing expenses and medicines. In the 2020 annual period, 139,157 people turned to the diocesan entity without counting the urgent aid delivered in emergency situations during the first months of the state of alarm.

Housing, employment and basic supplies

The main problems faced by those who approach Caritas in our country have common denominators: the difficulty of accessing housing, the impossibility of meeting the costs of basic supplies and unemployment, which, in many cases, affects all members of the family unit.

Caritas Canarias has been one of those that has most noticed the increase in the inequality gap. Not in vain, in this island diocese, from Caritas 14,623 households were attended, which meant an increase of 82.9% of households attended with respect to 2019. This is the highest number of attentions in the last five years. A year in which, in addition, the situation of thousands of migrants, abandoned to their fate on the streets of the islands, has added to the work of Caritas and the difficulties arising from the pandemic.

Other dioceses such as Seville have also experienced an increase in requests for help in their diocesan Caritas. In general terms, the families assisted by Caritas Diocesana de Sevilla increased by 26.6% in 2020. As highlighted in his presentation by the director of Diocesan Caritas of SevilleAccording to the INE, the capital of Seville has, among its neighborhoods, six of the poorest in Spain. Some areas in which the attention of diocesan Caritas has doubled. The parishes of Polígono Sur, Torreblanca and Tres Barrios have gone from serving 1,428 families in 2019, to 2,542 families in 2020.

Another example is Caritas Zaragoza, whose reception work in 2020, reached 11,518 people in 5,332 households, 23% more people welcomed than in 2019, and 31% more than in 2018.

The housing problem is compounded by the impossibility of meeting the cost of supplies, food and clothing. A point that, for example, in Caritas Merida Badajoz has gone from accounting for 28% in 2019 to 46% over the course of 2020. 

Poverty is mostly female

One of the most worrying data that the different Caritas organizations are presenting these days focuses on the "female face" of poverty in Spain. Generally, more than half of the people assisted by the different Caritas organizations are women. Their problems are especially pressing in the case of migrants with minors in their care and it is also the female sphere in which unemployment has made greater ravages during these months, with a special relevance in people engaged in household chores or professions of little stability.

The emergence of labor trafficking

The diocesan director of Caritas Madrid also referred to a worrying reality that is occurring in Spain as a result of the crisis derived from the pandemic: the recruitment of men and women for the purpose of labor exploitation within our country. "Collectives such as the Adorers, who work side by side with women victims of trafficking, are telling us about this reality", said Luis Hernández, "they are people who are recruited to work with very long hours, without labor coverage and in a slavery regime, like the ones we know in Asia, for example, and which, until recently, was unthinkable in Spain".

"If I don't get out of here, another mother can't get in."

Giving a voice and a face to those who come to Caritas for help is one of the objectives of the Caritas campaigns and, in particular, that of Charity Day, which takes place on these days. The presentation of the annual data in Madrid has counted with the testimonies of Aurora y Vanessa. The first came to Caritas for the first time 7 years ago. She arrived pregnant, homeless and without a job. Since then, she has gone through several Caritas residences and has followed training and emotional support courses. "What those of us who come to Caritas want," she stressed, "is a decent job, decent housing, an opportunity. There are many mothers like me, in this situation, and if I don't get out of here, another mother won't be able to get in".

Vanessa is a college student. Apparently she does not have "the profile" of a Caritas user. However, as she points out "I can't stop being grateful for what Caritas has done for my mother and for me". A story that began in 2015, when, for various reasons, Vanesa and her mother had to end up living in one room, "overcrowded". "My mother, who was ill, went to the Church and there she was referred to Caritas. They opened the doors of the JMJ residential center to us, offered us accompaniment, and we were eventually able to manage social housing. Vanesa, who has finished her degree and now, with effort, is finishing a master's degree, points out that "thanks to Caritas, I not only have a house, but a family" and she encouraged "not to lose hope because in Caritas they are always there to help you".

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