Social Issues

Homelessness on rise in Buenos Aires as pandemic fuels poverty

By Veronica Dalto

Buenos Aires, Jul 1 (EFE).- An already fragile and unstable economic situation in Argentina has worsened with the coronavirus pandemic, forcing more and more people into homelessness.

The number of registered homeless people in Buenos Aires has increased to 2,573 from 1,743 since Covid-19 hit the South American country, according to official data from the local government.

Mariano, 41 years old, is one of the thousands unable to pay rent after losing their employment due to the pandemic, forcing them to live a homeless life.

“I would like to return to normality so I can work again,” he told Efe, wrapped in a blanket sitting on a mattress on the sidewalk.

Mariano worked as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant in the Argentinian capital, but when the city entered a tough lockdown in May last year, he lost his job.

After months of living in a hotel, he ran out of money and was forced to adopt the streets as his new ‘home.’

On a frigid winter evening, Mariano is approached by Operativo Frio, an initiative by the Buenos Aires local government to open shelters across the city for homeless people during the winter months.

But even for the most desperate, the inclusion centers – which offer a warm meal, bed and blanket – are not always the preferred choice.

Tainted by stories of assaults and robberies, Juan – who has been homeless since 2001 – says he feels safer sleeping on the streets than in a shelter.

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