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Homeless people and sensationalism

A few days ago we read the news of a brutal aggression against an old homeless lady in a street in downtown Madrid. This piece of news and her image with the face full of bruises was shared in the social networks and in the media. Do we need to see the bruises of an old lady to react against the violence that means living on the street? In that aggression we can identify different features that made the lady a special vulnerable victim: her age, her situation of extreme poverty, her gender, her nationality, her ethnicity. But, I consider that there is some collective cynicism and certain sensationalism: we feel outraged before these aggressions, yet we still live with these people on our streets and squares as if nothing happened. The truth is that we do not raise our voices before our politicians to let them know that the situation of these people makes us angry and that we demand solutions to this problem. Because living on the street is also violence, a violence that is accepted every day as something logical 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 structural factors with their origins set in political, social and economic causes that hamper access to housing and to jobs. Therefore, setting a context to this aggression against this old lady in a wider framework is absolutely necessary in order 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 life span 20 years shorter than the rest of the population. And 47% of these people will suffer an aggression 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 aggression 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 beyond the limits.

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