Argentina: Street people

Indigentes

Those living in the streets are often considered to be “dangerous”, but they really are victims of exclusion.

A survey by the Ministry of Social Development showed that there were 1,287 adults and over 700 children and teenagers under 18 years of age living in the streets of the city last year.

Seventy percent of them were men; 15 percent, women; and 15 percent, entire families, it revealed.

NGOs like Project 7, Doctors without Borders, and the Legal and Social Study Center estimate, however, that the actual overall number ranges from 10,000 to 15,000. The difference is due to the fact that the government does not consider people at risk, those evicted or likely to be evicted, and those living at hotels or shelters.

“Government data are not reliable,” said social anthropologist Griselda Palleres. “They show that men have always accounted for 80 percent of all street people and women, for 20 percent since 1997, when the first count was conducted,” she added.

Getting worse

The situation has been getting increasingly worse after the 2001 economic crisis. While most street people in the past were single, they now include entire families.

“With the latest real-estate business boom, many local families have been evicted and ended up living in parks and squares,” she told SEMlac.

“And there are teenage mothers under similar conditions because the government has implemented no comprehensive policy and has come up with no effective response,” she regretted.

Denying a right

The 2010 Law on the Protection and Restitution of Rights of Street People and People at Risk has just been repealed by the local government.

The legal instrument established that these people are socially excluded and are not properly supported by government and civil-society organizations.

It urged to guarantee their fundamental rights, and formulate and implement public policies in the fields of healthcare, education, housing, labor, leisure, and culture.

It also set forth that these policies should be developed from an intersectorial perspective, considering a wide range of cross-cutting issues.

Palleres was actively involved in the law preparation and strongly believes that it provides an effective means to fight social discrimination, prejudices and exclusion.

“There have been, however, aggressive, violent actions against these people. They have been seriously injured and even killed during evictions,” she noted.

In early February, the Executive objected the so-called right to the city arguing that it is far from accurate and is not in keeping with constitutional principles.

This right involves use of public space and access to services by all citizens on an equal footing. “The law will not be in force until this issue is resolved,” she anticipated.

“There are many political interests behind it,” she noted. “The right to the city is being enjoyed only by a small political and economic group,” she added.

“Aggressive policies are being implemented with the blessing of some social sectors that believe that street people cause only critical health and security problems,” she concluded.

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