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Oscar Martínez, social educator and participant in the Recompte 2017 campaign

"No one wants to live on the street"

10   July   2017

Oscar Martínez:

Oscar Martínez: "We cannot be proud of a system that directly rejects people who lack the dignity of having a home"

Oscar Martínez Rivera, professor at the Faculty of Social Education and Social Work Pere Tarrés (Ramon Llull University), is also a course instructor at the UOC. He has been a social educator for 18 years at TEB d’Habitatge and last May he was among the volunteers who participated in the Recompte 2017 campaign, which recorded 1,026 people living on the streets of Barcelona, 1,954 in facilities belonging to the City Council or different social organizations and 415 in irregular settlements. 

By Marian Antón

Tell us about the Recompte campaign.

It is a joint action by the institutions working to eradicate homelessness in Barcelona through the Xarxa d’Atenció a Persones Sense Llar (Network of Homeless Services, XAPSLL). It consists of recording the individuals sleeping on the streets of the city on one day and for specific hours at night. It was the fifth time this was done in Barcelona and it was also carried out in other cities on the same day.

Why did you want to participate?

There are things that can only be done with a degree of social mobilization. But this action also corresponds to a situation that should shame all of us. With people sleeping on the street we cannot be proud of a system that directly rejects those who have no economic or personal means to have a dignified home. Our home is a very important living space: it is where we can enjoy our private domain, reflect, be silent and calmly make decisions; it is also a very protective place. All of this is almost beyond the reach of someone living on the street, and they are fundamental issues for a human being. In addition, you only need to dedicate a few hours to this project one night per year. It does not require any effort but we can only do it if a thousand people agree to collect the data.

“The fact that there are over a thousand people sleeping on the streets of Barcelona is the result of a system in which we have trivialized the right to have a home”

What was your role on that night of 17-18 May?

The specific action is very simple. You can choose the part of the city where you want to be. I was in the neighbourhood of La Bordeta (Sants). Like the other volunteers that night, our task was to identify people sleeping rough and locate them on a paper map or virtually on an app. This allows us to have the specific data on the number of people in this situation and how they are physically distributed. We only need to know if they are male or female, their approximate age, if possible, and if they are accompanied by an animal, a dog for instance. We do not need to interact with them but only observe from a distance.

What surprised you the most?

What made the biggest impact on me was a family sleeping in a more or less protected area and who were recently in the media because the neighbours do not want them to continue living there for different reasons.

Would you participate again?

Yes, but we also need to be attentive throughout the year to see what is being done in relation to this issue. No one wants to live on the street. The fact that there are over a thousand people sleeping on the streets of Barcelona is the result of a system in which we have trivialized the right to have a home. Current prices are the result of speculation; it is not an accidental situation. There are people speculating with the right to have a personal space to live, just as there are people speculating with the price of food at a world level. We urgently need to regulate and limit rent levels as initial measures so that we can talk of a country that guarantees the protection of all citizens and not just a few.

Who would you recommend should participate in the next campaign?

Everyone, of course. Above all if they do it to be critical of the system that creates this residential social exclusion and not only as an occasional action that they quickly forget.

You are currently a course instructor but you hold a master's degree in Information and Knowledge Society, a bachelor's degree in Educational Psychology and have done a postgraduate course in Education and ICT (E-learning). What do you remember most about your time as a student?

I particularly remember my satisfaction with the effort and perseverance of training online. I have always worked and studied at the same time and it is not always easy. But, in the end, it is worthwhile. It is also highly gratifying to have later become part of the faculty, and the Educational Psychology team has always been very powerful and enriching and I have learnt a lot over these years.

“Being able to support highly motivated people who want to be good professionals in the learning process is highly enriching”

And what would you highlight about your work?

My main work is with the Faculty of Social Education and Social Work Pere Tarrés (URL), and so I have the opportunity to see different modes of training. In both cases being able to support highly motivated people who want to be good professional in the learning process is highly enriching. Being able to take part in this process and contribute part of my experience as a social instructor is quite magical and special. The assessment of the students requires a mark and, as happens with most professors, when you see that someone has not achieved the minimum level for some reason you feel sorry but at the same time you are responsible for the training and academic accreditation of future professionals.

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