Last week in an article entitled ‘The Hypocrisy of Human Migration’ we explored opportunity available to the 17% of people that make up the foreign inhabitants in Barcelona. This included interview profiles. It was found that for many a lack of legal documentation is a big hinderance towards integrating within the local community. Consequently, many people in this situation live without a professional job and dignified housing.
However, there was one man I interviewed who had ‘found a system’ to use his circumstances of poverty to his advantage. I saw him sat outside a supermarket with a hat in front of him to collect money. However, he wasn’t asking for money, he was reading a book. This was a white man from South Africa who has been living homeless in Barcelona for two years and ten months. He informed me that he had left his native country because there is “no hope there” in a country where he asserted there are 40,000 killings a year.
He informed me that his friends had advised him about the ‘occupation’ as a escape route to his country and problems. Yes, he referred to being homeless as an occupation.
He never asks for money yet earns around 80€ a day. He is confident that he lives better in his ‘occupation’ than if he worked part time without legal paperwork. So well in fact that when a kind person gave him an assortment of chocolates he asked me if I wanted them, as he doesn’t like chocolate and wasn’t hungry.
‘The first couple of months were difficult but now I just follow a system’ he concedes. He eats breakfast at a church, lunch at a food bank and showers and sleeps in Sarria one of the city’s most affluent neighbours. Designer clothes also drape his body which he acquires for free in charity shops.
Perhaps, it is his colour and English proficiency that convey he is a expat not an immigrant fallen on hard times and he receives sympathy and good will. Or perhaps it is his intellect that makes his state of poverty profitable.
Towards the end of our conversation I asked him if his family knew he lived on the streets. He answered no. I said to him maybe if you tell them they can help you. He replied “No I can help them”.