The room in which Abdelouahed Juiede (Abdul) lives is so clean and tidy that it looks like a set for the National Dramatic Center, a place next to which it is located, in the heart of Lavapiés. Its particularity, beyond the aforementioned neatness and dignity reflected by a well-made bed, a perfectly laid table -with its tablecloth and crockery prepared- and the cleaning utensils lined up, lies in the fact that it only consists of two walls and that no roof.
Abdul, born in Morocco, is 65 years old, 41 of which he has spent in Spain, between Lavapiés and La Latina, and for the first time since he arrived in the country he finds himself living on the street. He is one more resident of the Embajadores neighborhood to whom a series of circumstances that have passed him by have circumstantially turned him into a homeless person.
“I don’t ask for alms, I ask for a job”
“If I get a job, I solve my problem myself,” he says with a praiseworthy spirit and all the good humor that the situation allows. The recent arrangement of his papers, which had expired and, among other things, have caused him to end up on the street, allow him to harbor that hope of finding a job soon. That’s all the help he asks for.
“I am not a tramp, I do not ask for alms. I have a driver’s license and I’m willing to work at anything”, he says in perfect Spanish, while he recounts that in recent years he has been working in a laundry and in restaurants as a kitchen assistant, but that just yesterday he got 20 euros helping in a move.
Currently he does not receive any public aid, although a social worker from the Madrid City Council has just made a request so that he can collect the minimum vital income: “I have been told that it may take up to 6 months. I hope that by then I won’t need it anymore.” She says that they have also told her that they could look into the subject of his retirement, given that as of 2010 she was contributing.
At the moment, his day to day is saving him thanks to the neighbors of the neighborhood: “I am very happy with the people, with how they treat me. Some give me clothes; some shops, food; others, simply conversation. They come by to say hello, they ask me how I am, they sit down with me, interested in my story and how it is that I got here, they comment that they have never seen so much order in someone who lives on the street. I will never forget what I am receiving these days from all these neighbors. Even the staff of the National Dramatic Center cares about me and behaves well with me, they invited me to go to the theater and I met its director, who takes charge of the situation and has not called the City Hall to have me kicked out. Even the same policemen who twice had to notify the cleaning services to remove all my belongings from here are well behaved. They just do their job, but then when they see me around they are interested in how I’m doing and they’ve been the ones who put me back in contact with social services. The two times that everything has been taken from me, the neighbors have provided me with what I needed and I have reassembled my room in the same place the same day. They were throwing me from the street to the street.”
His son, who lives in Lavapiés, also helps him with what little he can. “He’s Spanish, with a permanent job, but he’s rented a room and he can’t put me up with him.”
How he came to the street after 40 years working
Abdul arrived in Spain in 1981 and has always been working. However, he has only been able to do so legally since 2010, when after marrying a Spanish woman he obtained his residence and work permit through marriage. They were 30 years of secrecy followed by a decade of stability.
After separating from his wife in 2014, he went to rent a room in a compatriot’s house. When in 2021 he lost his job, having his residency card expired, he was unable to find another job and after five months without being able to pay his rent, he had no choice but to leave what had been his home.
It was then that for the first time he approached the administration in search of help, getting a place in a municipal shelter during the cold season. After that they offered him a brief stay in a pension in Chueca.
That help ended on April 30, at which time he decided to install a room on a street in the neighborhood where he has spent most of his life.
In the height of summer, between 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., the sun makes life in the home that Abdul has created impossible. However, during his absence a sign bearing his name and his phone number makes him always reachable.
“You never know when the job offer that gets me out of here may come to you,” he says, holding on to his new residence card for a community relative, valid for five years and which he has obtained thanks to his son.