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AP Photos. Cars become the home of victims of the Spanish epidemic

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PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) – A 65-year-old Spaniard could not understand that a 65-year-old Spaniard could not understand that he could be homeless after five decades of work when a social worker called to say he was being fired.

“I grabbed some clothes, some books, other things, wrapped them in the bed sheets, and said to myself, ‘I have a roof over my head, my car,'” Irou said from inside the old Renault Clio compact. it has been his refuge for the last three months.

Irure is one of the economic victims of the coronavirus epidemic. He managed to avoid getting COVID-19, but the work slowdown caused by restrictions on movement and social activities, which the Spanish government used to control the spread of the virus, was considered deadly to its financial stability.

Irou, who started working as a hotel bell tower at the age of 13, was working as a professional cleaner when the epidemic hit Spain last year and drained his sources of income. It was not long before Irou came out of the rented apartment.

She tried to get help from social services, but relied on the help of local charity Ayuda Mutua.

“You feel like a pendulum swing” dealing with official bureaucracy. “Going from one window to another, from calls that never answer vague promises.”

The epidemic has been particularly severe for the Spanish economy due to its dependence on tourism and services. The country’s left-wing government has retained its main plan to reduce its influence, but more than a million jobs have been lost.

Although interconnected families have supported many citizens who might otherwise have been left homeless, the restriction of people in the home has exacerbated Spanish family life, which has seen a sharp rise in divorce rates. The collapse of households has left more individuals alone.

The Catholic Relief Society, Cáritas Española, said earlier this month that about half a million people, or 26% of all recipients, had sought help since the epidemic began. Cáritas opened 13 centers dedicated to helping the homeless since the epidemic began.

Like Irue, Juan Jimenez had no choice but to live in his used Ford car, where he slept for about a year.

Jimenez, 60, saw his mortgage payments spiral out of control, and the marriage collapsed after he and his wife bought a bigger house. He said he had received 620 euros ($ 740) in recent months for state aid.

“I dream of having all my children under one roof, but it ‘s better that I’m here,” Jimenez said. “They have their lives, I would just be a problem.”

Jimenez and Irue move their cars from one parking lot to another on the outskirts of the northern Spanish city of Pamplona, ​​where they once had homes. They do this to avoid being noticed.

“When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself, ‘What am I doing here?'” Jimenez said from his car, which was cluttered with clothes, blankets, and bags full of all his belongings.

“We are invisible beings. Nobody wants to look at us. “Nobody wants to know anything about us,” he said. “We do not exist.”

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AP writer Joseph Oze Wilson contributed to this Barcelona report.

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Follow AP epidemic coverage https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine և https://apnews.com/Und UndingingtheOutbreak

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