Caritas warns that poverty in Spain rivals post-World War II Europe.Friday, June 8th, 2012
Current poverty levels in Spain are similar to those experienced in post-World War II Europe, according Julio Beamonte, the director of Catholic charity Caritas in Madrid.
This week at a press conference about the charity’s work in 2011, the aid agency leader said the crisis is the worst the country has faced in decades. Last year Caritas Madrid helped more than 118,000 people and distributed almost €24 million in aid. More than 7,000 Caritas volunteers helped to distribute €5.6 million in parishes across the country.
The demand for help has increased so much in 2012 that the Diocesan Emergency Fund will need an additional one million euro for the second half of the year in order to help those in need. Julio Beamonte said the profile of those receiving aid from Caritas has evolved in recent years, and that now more young people are requesting assistance, as well as more men, more single parent families and more native-born Spaniards who hide their economic difficulties out of embarrassment.
“These numbers represent poverty, but there is another side to this which is hope,” he continued, noting that Caritas has seen an increase in volunteers this year and in donations.
Asked about the demands being made by some that the Church no longer be exempt from the IBI real estate and property tax, Beamonte said the law should be followed on this matter and pointed to the gospel passage, which read,: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
He said that in 2011, 14,000 emergency aid packages were distributed, 600 families were kept in their homes, 1,187 aid packages were given to the unemployed, and 2,242 persons were helped to find a job.
In February of this year Caritas stated that 22% of households below poverty line, and another 30% on the cliff edge as the face serious difficulties in making ends meet. Some 580,000 Spaniards, nearly 3.3% of the population, receive no income whatsoever.
The study commissioned by the charity stated that up to 11 million people could fall below the poverty threshold, and confirmed that there are around 30,000 homeless people across the country.
At the launch of the report titled, Exclusion and Social Development 2012, a spokesperson said that after four years of financial hardship, poverty is more widespread, more intense and it is creating a polarised society in which the difference between rich and poor is growing.
Spain is among the European countries with the highest poverty rates, totalling up to 21.8% of the population, which is more than the EU average of 16.4%. Only Romania and Latvia are above Spain in the list.
Caritas Spain operates through 68 diocesan offices, which manage the work of 65,000 volunteers.
by Ann Marie Foley