Santa Anna works miracles in Barcelona

The heat has put social services in Barcelona on the ropes and has shown that municipal resources are not enough and they have to rely on the work of solidarity entities.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
26 August 2023 Saturday 10:31
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Santa Anna works miracles in Barcelona

The heat has put social services in Barcelona on the ropes and has shown that municipal resources are not enough and they have to rely on the work of solidarity entities. The problem is that many of these institutions close or reduce activities in August because they depend on very dedicated volunteers, but who take vacations. That makes the exceptions even more commendable.

Two of the entities of this type that have continued at full throttle this month are the Gregal solidarity soup kitchen in the Besòs neighborhood (which plans to take a short break in September, when other soup kitchens reopen) and the field hospital of the church of Santa Anna, in Ciutat Vella (which never closes). The volunteers of this parish, like Maria Teresa, do not talk about homeless people, users or beneficiaries.

They talk about welcome people. Here the Gospels come true: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me. An essential branch of the Santa Anna tree is the NGO Salut sense Sostre, made up of some 40 doctors and nurses, among other professionals, most of whom are retired. Retired, not inactive.

Other summers the shower service was temporarily closed (where, in addition to washing, the shelters can change their clothes for clean ones), but this time they are maintained. There are few, only three showers, but there are three more to be added to those of the network of municipal shelters, which cannot cope, and even more with this alarm due to the drought, which prevents resorting to lucky solutions, such as beach showers, that don't work

The church has a slogan, set up in an old flower shop, where those who come can leave their cars and belongings. One of the most important moments is that of breakfast, which is served in the cloister, like lunch and dinner. To attend the main meals, however, you need to be registered in advance. Anyone who needs it can go to breakfasts... and who arrives on time.

Rosario, the coordinator of the field hospital, is moved to see from Monday to Saturday, a queue of people at the door, hoping to have breakfast. Donations, the main engine of the field hospital, also drop in summer. Despite this, every morning between 150 and 170 breakfasts are served. And more than a hundred lunches and dinners, which have skyrocketed. “In May there were 80 and now…”, says Rosario.

But the hour and a half of breakfasts, especially those on Mondays and Wednesdays, are also very important because it is the time when the shelters can receive health care from Salut sense Sostre. “In those 90 minutes we can care for around twenty patients”, explain doctor Montse and nurses Ana and Mercedes, with 40 years of healthcare experience, who work alongside Àngel, a computer scientist.

Most pathologies are related to high temperatures. Sunburn, chafing, foot injuries, a consequence of inadequate footwear and an endless path. Not everyone needs material comfort. One would say that it is the case of that Moroccan boy who has been beaten up and who seems to be looking for maternal hands. Earlier, another foster with a sunburned back has touched a nurse.

“You take care of me like a mother,” he told her, while they lovingly applied an ointment to the affected area. "And how not to do it, if you could be my son", she replied. Sleeping on the floor causes injuries, "some are visible, others are not: it also leaves scars on the soul," explains Montse. A rule of thumb here is to ask everyone their name so they never feel like a number, a statistic.

And all this is a minimum of what is done. There are resources on optometry, dentistry, podiatry, psychology and osteopathy. In addition, aid is channeled to families and wonders are done with a reduced offer of social flats. Donations and subsidies, which are never enough, do not explain why everything is still standing. What is the secret? And the health workers from Salut sense Sostre smile: “It's Santa Anna, who works miracles”.