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In Spain, Millions Forced Below Poverty Line

  • Al Pessin

In central Madrid on a Saturday afternoon, the economic crisis seems like something only economists worry about. But in the working class suburb of Mostoles, the crisis hits home.
Here at the San Simon de Rojas food-distribution center, unemployed construction worker Antonio Molino Pelaez is just one of many getting acquainted to life on the streets.
"When I had a job, I had a good life. I didn't have lot of money but enough to eat. Now I can't survive. I have nothing," he says. "It affects me a lot, because I'm a man of 41 and I don't have any prospects. I don't have a future. I don't have anything."
Pelaez, who eats here six days a week — on Sundays when the food-distribution center is closed, he doesn't eat — has no wife or family to support, a fact for which he is grateful.
Many people who come to the food center do have families, including the unemployed waitress who is serving the hungry; living in an abandoned building with her children and unemployed husband, she is too embarrassed to come to the center merely to take a handout.
It's a story heard over and over again. Twenty-five per cent of Spanish workers are unemployed and a growing number of them can't afford to buy enough food to live.
In addition to breakfast, people who come here get a sandwich for lunch and other items take with them. Lorenzo Inche, an unemployed engineer, came here at first to eat, but then also volunteered to help.
"Clearly the changes have been harsh, but not just for me for my whole generation — so many engineers, thousands and thousands of engineers that have been left without work," he says.
The center used to feed about 50 people a day, but now, with more than 700 people registered to eat, volunteers have to reset the room several times.
"It has changed a lot, many entire families come here," says Amparo Ramos, the center's lead volunteer. "Also, street people and immigrants come. Basically they don't have jobs, and now, if they pay their rent they can't buy food. In Spain we've had some very bad years, but [these are] very bad years."
According to predictions of financial experts, Spain likely has at least one more bad year ahead and they say that's probably just the minimum amount of time needed to for the country's hard-hit economy to begin turning around.

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