Homeless people and sensationalism
A few days ago we read the news of a brutal attack against an old homeless lady in a street in downtown Madrid. This piece of news and her image with her bruised face was shared on social media networks. Do we need to see the bruises of an old lady to react against the violence that happens when living on the street? In this attack we can identify different items which made the lady a vulnerable victim: her age, her situation of extreme poverty, her gender, her nationality, her ethnicity. We believe that there is collective cynicism and certain sensationalism: we feel outraged about these attacks, yet we still live with these people on our streets and squares as if nothing is wrong. The truth is, if we do not raise our voices to our politicians, we need to let them know that the situation of these people makes us angry and that we demand solutions to this problem. Living on the street is violence, a violence that is accepted every day inside the system and therefore it goes unseen.
Expert organisations talk about homelessness instead of “people without a roof” to give visibility to this reality. A reality which is a social phenomenon and not just isolated cases of poor people. Homelessness is determined by factors, the origins set in political, social and economic causes that hamper access to housing and to jobs. Therefore, setting a context to this attack against this old lady in a wider framework is absolutely necessary in order for it not to be sensationalist.
Living on the street is violence. In Spain, there are 31,000 citizens, men and women, that do not have a home. These people have a lifespan, 20 years shorter than the rest of the population. 47% of these people will suffer an attack because of hatred and intolerance as this old lady did. Every 6 days one person dies on the street (the last one we have registered took place in Alicante). Living on the street kills. Literally!
Neither the media nor the political representatives nor citizens should wait for an 85 years old lady to suffer an attack in the city centre of Madrid to start to be concerned and react about the situation of extreme poverty, social injustice and extreme vulnerability that homeless people suffer. Housing is a right that must be guaranteed. A democratic society cannot allow itself to abandon anyone.