Irure belongs to a large number of economic victims of the coronavirus pandemic. He managed to avoid taking COVID-19, but the slowdown caused by restrictions on movement and social activities that the Spanish government decided to control the spread of the virus proved deadly to his financial stability.
Irure, who started working at the age of 13 as a hotel belfry, was working as a professional cleaner when the pandemic hit Spain last year and drained his sources of income. It was not long before Irure returned from his rented apartment.
He tried to get help from public social services, but he relies on help from local charity Ayuda Mutua.
You feel like a pendulum swinging with the official bureaucracy, Irure said. Moving from one window to another, from calls that never answer vague promises.
The pandemic has been particularly difficult for the Spanish economy due to its reliance on the tourism and services sector. The country’s left-wing government has maintained an additional program to reduce influence, but over a million jobs have disappeared.
While close-knit families have supported many citizens who might otherwise have ended up poor, the confinement of people at home has also strained Spanish family life, as seen in rising divorce rates. The breakdown of families has left more individuals alone.
The Catholic aid organization Critas Espaola said earlier this month that about half a million more people, or 26% of all its aid recipients, have reached out for help since the pandemic began. Critas has opened 13 centers dedicated to helping the homeless since the pandemic began.
Like Irure, Juan Jimnez had no choice but to live in his car, a second-hand Ford where he slept for close to a year.
Jimnez, 60, saw his mortgage payments out of control and his marriage collapsed after he and his wife bought a larger home. The 620 euros ($ 740) he received in government assistance in recent months went to his seven children, he said.
I dream of having all my kids under one roof, but it’s better that I’m here, Jimnez said. They have their lives, and I would be just a problem.
Jimnez and Irure move their cars from one parking lot to another on the outskirts of the northern Spanish city of Pamplona, where they once had homes. They do this to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
When I wake up in the morning, I wonder, What am I doing here? Jimnez said from his car, which is packed with clothes, blankets and bags filled with everything he owns.
We are invisible beings. No one wants to see us. No one wants to know anything about us, he said. We do not exist.
AP writer Joseph Wilson contributed to this report from Barcelona.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/Und UndingingtheOutbreak
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