Census 2018: 46% said they have not been assisted by a social worker

On the night of June 5th and into the morning of June 6th, we went out into the streets of Barcelona to interview people who sleep on the street. We talked to 315 people and the early results indicate that 71% of these people live in moderate to high vulnerability situations. 59.8% have slept on the street for a year or more, 41% said they have physical health problems and 46% said they hadn’t been attended to by a social worker or similar official in the last six months.

The goal of the census of people who live on the street in Barcelona is to find out the current level of vulnerability and, with this information, influence policies and resources and make them more efficient.

This effort is part of a European campaign that seeks to eradicate street homelessness by 2020. To date, 13 cities from different counries, including Barcelona, have joined the effort.

The census that we organized this year was made possible thanks to the participation of 370 volunteers who, in one night, covered 34 districts in Barcelona that house the majority of people who sleep on the street. That night, the teams located 831 people, 315 of whom agreed to answer the census questions. Here, you can download the report as a PDF.


How vulnerable are they?

  • Everyone who sleeps on the street lives in a state of vulnerability, but it can be more or less elevated. The census serves to detect the state of the person’s health, if they have suffered an abuse, how long they have been living on the street, their age, etc.
  • The first results indicate that 18% of people are currently in a high vulnerability situation, meaning they need a priority social intervention. This statistic is similar to the data obtained in 2016 and 2017. If we add up the number of people in high and moderate vulnerability situations, we’re talking about 71% of the people interviewed.
  • Of all the people interviewed, 82% are men, 10% are women and 8% identify otherwise.
  • The median age is 43.7 years. It’s worth noting that more than half (57%) are between 25 and 49 years old and that 24% are between 50 and 64 years old.
  • The 315 people interviewed come from 51 different countries. The main countries of origin are Spain (26%), Romania (19%), Morocco (8.8%) and Italy (4.4%). 26% are of Spanish nationality, 40.3% are from other EU countries and 27% are from non-EU countries. The numbers for EU countries and non-EU countries are higher compared to 2017, increasing from a total of 63.2% to 67.3%.


What is their situation?

  • On average, the people interviewed had been living on the street for 3 years and 4 months. 59.8% had been living on the street for a year or more.

    • 37.4% are registered in Barcelona, five percent less tan in 2017. 
  • 66% of the people interviewed had no income, social benefits or inheritance or work illegally.
  • 14% of the people interviewed could not meet basic needs.
  • In the case of 16% of those we interviewed, consumption of alcohol or drugs made it difficult for them to remain in their accommodations or was the reason they had to leave their housing. In the case of people with physical health problems, this figure is 11%; Compared to the year 2017, this is a slight increase.


Do they receive social assistance?

  • 46% of the people we interviewed said they had not been assisted by a social worker or similar official in the past six months. Compared to last year, the number increased almost five percent and is similar to the number from 2016. Another 20% said they were not sure whether or not they had had contact with a social worker.
  • The percentage of people we spoke to who said they had used emergency social services in the last six months went from 15% to 11.7%. People in moderate or low vulnerability situations said that they almost never use emergency social services.



Can they go to the doctor?


  • 41% of people said they have physical health problems.
  • 19% said that they suffer from chronic illnesses, a figure slightly lower than one year ago.
  • 44% have a health card. This figure decreased for the third consecutive year; in 2016, 50% of people interviewed said they had a health card.
  • 29.5% required emergency medical care, a number similar to that of the previous year;17.7% were admitted to a hospital and 15.5% of people interviewed said they had needed an ambulance. The fact that 54.4% of people with a higher degree of vulnerability have made use of emergency medical services in the past six months stands out.
  • In the census conducted in 2018, we found two pregnant women living on the street.


Do they feel protected?

  • 30.5% of people interviewed said they had been victims of a physical and/or verbal attack; for women, that figure is 25%. The risk of aggression for people at a higher level of vulnerability increases to 71.9%.
  • 19.5% of people interviewed said that they had pending legal cases in the court system, and 15.8% said they had been detained in a police station at some point.
  • 5.7% of people interviewed also said they had been forced, cheated or pressured to do something against their will, a figure slightly higher than last year.


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