But in the last few months, two of these have once again been filled to capacity, housing around 70 formerly homeless young men from around the world.
The project, run by the BarcelonActua (BAC) foundation, aims to help social integration and fight homelessness for young immigrants in irregular situations.
Life for asylum seekers and “ex-tutelados”– young men who arrived in Spain as unaccompanied minors and aged out of group homes – has been even more dire under COVID-19. Because of the lack of resources, many were already living on the streets or in group homes, which cut their capacities to follow social distance rules and health guidelines.
During the nationwide lockdown, public places like libraries closed, and the people who would normally help couldn’t go out.
“When everyone is stuck at home, no one is going to help you,” said Bilal Elouahaji, 21, who has been staying at one of hostels, called “BAC stations”, for the last two months. “Honestly, it was very, very difficult.”
But the hostels are only the first step in the integration process: the final goal is to place the young men in host families, says Griselda Bereciartu, BarcelonActua’s Head of Immigration and Refuge. “Asylum seekers and ex-tutelados all have the same problem,” she told The Local. “They don’t have a social network.”
And without the paperwork to build a life here, they have no way to create one. Living with families is the best way to help them integrate.
“As we place young men in host families, we free up space in the hostels to take in more who are living on the street,” she added. Plus, a lot of the processes set up to help asylum seekers and ex-tutelados depend on them having a stable address. Moving them into the hostels and host homes help them access more resources, Bereciartu explained.
So far, four families have become hosts, with several more interested. If you’re based near Barcelona and you’re interested in learning more about becoming a host family, you can sign up for BarcelonActua’s next Zoom information session (in Spanish) taking place on October 28th here.
By Sam Harrison in Barcelona