“When I started making...

“When I started making money, I was able to rent my own room again. You don't know what it feels like ... Now I get to my bed, take the cushion and say to myself: how beautiful this is!”

Jess, 32 years old

During confinement Jess lost work, suffered harassment
from his landlord for not being able to pay your rent
and found himself on the street.

(32 years old, Mexico)

Jess came to Spain 4,5 years ago, with the idea of spending about three months working in Ibiza, saving money and then heading to Switzerland. But once here, life took many turns and, although he never discarded his Swiss dream, for the moment he is still on Madrid soil.

Since he arrived, he sought his life as best as he could with small jobs and gradually building his network of resistance. It was not easy and at times, he even had to live on the street, either because he had no other option, or because the little he earned he did not want to spend on rent that was too high.

In the last three and a half years his situation had already been more stabilized: he was working at night capturing clients for bars and discos and renting a small room in a shared flat. The room was nothing to write home about: barely 5m2 and no window for about €370 per month, but well located and for Jess it was enough.

He never had papers but, until now, he also had no problems finding those small jobs, of course all of them on black. They paid him by commission and in one night he used to get between €30-50. Everything was ok until the pandemic hit and everything collapsed overnight.

His sector is one of the most impacted by pandemic, and even now, when he had already came back to job, Jess is still far from what he was earning before the pandemic. But the worst was during the time of confinement.

First, there were problems with the owner of the apartment. Without much savings or salary, he could not pay it and the owner did not want to hear about delay. The 3 1/2 years, during which Jess paid religiously, were weightless. The constant reminders of payment quickly turned into threats: - “She would send me messages and sometimes she would come knocking on my door saying: you are undocumented, you have no papers, the police will come for you because you have nothing…. I'm going to kick you out of my apartment, I'm going to kick you out to the dogs, you're going to shit in there ... - I had no job nor ERTE* and I could no longer bear this harassment.”

The help came from Senda de Cuñados**, a non-profit organization located in the center of Madrid. They took him out of the apartment and for a month he was able to stay at the association's premises. To get food, he went to the social centers and pantries: breakfast near the Colón metro, lunch in Malasaña and some boxes of food in a solidarity pantry set up in the Barrio Theater in Lavapiés. - "I spent the confinement walking to get food" - Jess laughs remembering these moments.

From the place of the Senda de Cuidados, he moved to the Marques de Samaranch Municipal Sports Center, where SAMUR (social public service in Madrid) set up beds for the homeless during the confinement.

As soon as the lockdown was over, Jess got back to work right away. - “I already started making money and I was able to rent my own room again. You don't know what it feels like ... when you get to a room and you can do whatever you want inside. Now I get to my bed, take the pillow and say to myself: how beautiful this is!”

He continued to work on the street, recruiting clients for bars, even when he began to experience Covid symptoms. He took ibuprofen, then acetaminophen but was feeling weaker and more tired every day. It was August and when strong chills and trouble breathing came, he said to himself that this was serious. He called emergencies and an ambulance was sent straight away. The same day in the emergency department they communicated him the positive result.
- “They told me that I have to go home to confine myself, but I in that room that I was renting I had barely been for a month, I was afraid that the owner would not like it. What if he kicks me out? I also had to continue working ... they told me it was a danger to society, yes, but if I came home and didn't work, who was going to feed me? So they decided to leave me in the hospital for 5 days.”

Jess is now trying to regularize his situation. Thanks to Senda de Cuidados organization he found a job as a caregiver for the elderly. He has a legal contract and is waiting for the administration to give him permission. Meanwhile, he is trying to attract customers for bars that have increasingly restricted hours. - "I always try to go with a smile on, whatever happens ... I've already learned to look for life. I was on the streets three times and I hope there won't be others because, although you learn many things there, you have to have resistance and psychologically it is sometimes very hard.”

*ERTE - Temporary Employment Regulation - is a measure approved by the government in Spain during the pandemic to protect jobs from layoffs.

**To learn more about the Path of Care and its activities: ENTER

Hanna Jarzabek - Photography & Documentary Storytelling

Documentary photographer and Multimedia Storyteller specialized in projects addressing discrimination and societal dysfunctions, with accent on Europe.
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