- Abel’s dream, who fell into the pit of unemployment at the doors of the pandemic and made his debut as homeless, is to join his new job on day 1.
Thus begins the story of Luis Vega, published in the newspaper EL PAÍS on November 22, on the story of Abel, who on February 3 was fired from his company in Getafe. He didn’t know that this was the date his life was going to be reset.
The consequences of covid-19 have spit a new vulnerable profile onto the street. Abel, a 43-year-old HVAC specialist, had never fallen into the hole before. You know you can roll lower still. That is why he fights daily to heal his gangrenous life so that he does not end in an amputation without going back. Everyday kicking has one goal: to get back to work. “If I stop I think. I do not want to think”.
Until then, since the age of 16, he says he has worked almost continuously. “I had never missed more than a week or ten days.” Like many others, he lived from day to day and had little room for maneuver. Already those first weeks he was homeless. “I even went hungry.” They were the prologue of what was coming, the health, social and economic earthquake of the coronavirus. Reality slap: end of scarce savings, charity dining room to fill the stomach and a hostel for the homeless during the confinement facilitated by the Social Services of Alcalá de Henares.
He was there until July 10. Back to the ground. He ended up sharing the distaste of the street with old dogs of the matter. “One day they left without saying goodbye. Goodness”. Abel does not miss that colleague who “had spent fifteen years in prison for hitting a fur shop” and his partner, whom he describes as a compulsive liar.
“I slept with my eyes open.” His story is that of someone who at all costs tries not to chain himself to an animalized existence without light at the end of the tunnel. He does not want to be surrounded by those who, with no other option, limit themselves to survive clinging to the aid of the system or of charity. “I have never put my hand to ask.” Also flee from those who do not want to or no longer have the strength to move forward. That is why one day in August he took one of the two tents that the ex-convict left abandoned, the smallest, and walked away towards the solitude of Henares. “I am on the street but I am not from the street. I’m for the fuck ”.
Once the night has landed, the light of a flashlight acts as a guide through the open field where the Alcalaínos walk their dogs during the day. The fog thickens as you reach the grove that surrounds the river bank. Thousands of wet leaves line the ground on which the little blue canvas igloo stands, half camouflaged among the foliage. A folded beach chair next to one of the logs is the only furniture. Inside, two sleeping bags, a blanket and the backpack. The entire wardrobe is made up of two sweatpants, three T-shirts and a change of clothes. The socks she wears are the invisible ones, that’s why she goes with her ankles in the fresh air. When he washes the only briefs he has, they go without them until they are dry. A twine from tree to tree acts as a clothesline.
Appearances are one of your priorities. You know well that they cheat. He doesn’t want anyone to detect this new Abel. Wearing the mask of normality, the one that avoids rejection and opens the doors to normalization, takes time when there is hardly any means available. “Now I have not had a shower for two weeks and I have been up to three. In summer it is deadly ”. It is hard to believe because there is no trace of sloppiness, lack of hygiene or bad smell.
The bureaucratic cap is still without collecting unemployment benefit. Only one month, 402 euros, of the six that he claims corresponded to him. You’ve gotten tired of knocking on the administration door. Now he prefers to knock on the door of companies. For miles and miles submitting your resume.
Thanks to your mobile, you can access job portals such as Infojobs or consult Adecco’s offers. It also addresses large companies such as Inditex or Decathlon via email. It has not succeeded with Amazon. Abel describes a labor market saturated with labor.
At noon the stop for lunch is at the Virgen de las Angustias Reception House. There he coincides with some whom he does not want to look like because they live in a spiral of demands: “Macaroni again like two days ago?” Abel has it clear, the first thing is to thank those who are helping him. “For me today everything is food.”
The afternoons serve him to go to a McDonalds where he recharges his phone and an external battery. It is an important tool to keep in touch with your family environment in Catalonia and you hardly know your bump. His ex-wife, whom he was married to for eight years, and his brother are aware. His 15-year-old son, his mother, his aunt and his grandmother are deceived behind the frequent calls from Madrid. You don’t want to be a drag on them or make them feel like you are a failure. Only one friend, in whose house she showers from time to time, has visited the tent. “She has not failed me,” he admits, although his speech is at all times free of guilt and regrets.
This week, however, started with a positive start. On Monday he escaped satisfied from his first face-to-face interview with a large service and maintenance company. That hopeful “come back Wednesday” had him more on edge than usual Tuesday night. In the afternoon he had shaved once more in the mall bathroom as a preparatory ritual. Very early in the morning he slipped out of the store, eaten up by nerves and, still at night, he went to the capital with a card for public transport provided by the Red Cross. That second date confirmed his best expectations. On December 1 he goes back to work. And, others, his. “Tonight I slept straight away. There were days when I thought I was never going to leave here. Now I still do not believe it, until I see myself equipped, with the uniform and in the van.
This same Thursday they have provided some money for clothing and footwear from the program. They also prepare the transport pass for you when you join on day 1.
Abel’s dream is today a room for 300 euros a month in a shared flat in the old town of Alcalá de Henares. That and a trip to Catalonia to feel closely the warmth of those who hide their descent into the hells of the sinhogarismo. His son, his mother, his aunt or his grandmother “already very old.” Enough for the tent next to the Henares meander, the bathroom at the mall and the McDonalds outlet to become a pandemic tragedy of the past.