We talk with David Marmolejo, Coordinator of ‘Llars El Pas’ project
By Marta Bach
· Tell us about the starting point and why ‘Llars El Pas’ project was created. In Punt de Referència we saw that the youngsters who left assisted flats when they turned 21 had great difficulties accessing a rented room, mainly due to economic issues, but also because of racist attitudes. At the same time, we had diagnosed that some of these boys and girls were not sufficiently prepared to be able to face emancipation without a minimum monitoring by an educator. Three years is not enough time to consolidate an emancipation project! For this reason, we decided to innovate and create an itinerary that would link the process of educational support with a long-term vision.
· Does ‘Llars El Pas’ contemplate different phases depending on each personal situation? Yes. It consists of 4 phases of accompaniment according to the process in which each young person is. In the first one, young people are at the initial stage of creating their training and work path and have no income, but they need a place to live, like everyone else, and they need continued educational support. It is designed for young people who have participated in the Acull project. In the second phase, the young person already has a clear idea about the work or training plan. They have a first job and a fixed income, even if it is precarious and the income is low. The aim is for them to be able to consolidate and complete their work or training plan. Thanks to this project, there are young people who can combine their job (with a low income or part-time) and continue their training, a matter that will allow them to have more opportunities in the future. This is what ‘Llars El Pas’ is about: to improve the conditions of young people so that they can continue their studies, like any young persons of their generation who usually have family support while they pursue their education.The third phase is aimed at young people who have already achieved their training and employment goals. It would be the case of a boy or girl who has obtained a middle or high grade, and this has allowed them to have a good job with an unlimited work contract. Job and economic security make it easier to prepare for your exit thanks to good income management, for example, and follow your own path to emancipation. Among the options we work with are rooms for rent in shared flats, social rent, or cooperative housing. The latter would be the 4th and last phase of the project.
· Having a home is undoubtedly a gain and a relief, but is ‘Llars El Pas’ much more than that? Absolutely, we work on all aspects with a holistic vision, even those that are not a high priority, but are important for their development process. We start from what is necessary and essential: having a job, studies, a support network, knowing how to manage a flat… But we also focus on the more emotional areas such as communication, living together with peers and communal living with neighbours (the micro and the macro group), being part of a neighbourhood, knowing where the services are (health, sports…).
· You who share many moments with young people out of care, what is the main difficulty in their day-to-day life? Society demands total emancipation from these young people without any assurance of success. An emancipation that the young people of their generation reach 11 years later (at the age of 29). When young people leave the family environment, they usually have an education and a job, and, above all, the emotional support of their network (family, friends, etc.). Something that the young person out of care does not have. Fighting loneliness and at the same time moving forward, without having this support network, is very complicated and distressing for them. · Is cooperative housing also a way for these young people? Cooperative housing with assignment of use (in cohousing) is a very good solution to fight speculation in the housing market. Based on this idea, three years ago we sought an alliance with Sostre Cívic, an entity that promotes this model. At a time, La Balma building, located in the Poblenou neighbourhood of Barcelona, was being promoted. After many meetings, joint forethoughts, shared goals and anxieties, in September 2021, two young people from Punt de Referència moved in to live together in La Balma. This was a major gain for them, since besides being able to have a home of their own, they became part of a neighbourhood group. This means generating a sense of belonging, of being useful, of forming a network and, at the end of the day, becoming two more neighbours of Poblenou.
· Which alliances have you built to promote the creation of solidarity flats for the group of young people out of care? The Sostre Cívic cooperative and the Mambré Foundation have been the key to making this project a reality. And obviously, the community of residents of La Balma who have welcomed the two young people as just another neighbours. Something so simple and commonplace in other environments, for these young people it equates to feel like equals.
· ‘Llar El Pas’ was born out of a social need, it was a pilot test and is it now a transformative reality? Yes. The fact that it started as a pilot test validates the goal of the proposal and its quality. And this encourages us to replicate this model with other young people and cooperatives. There are young people waiting for this opportunity! And we and society must give them a real and viable answer. Because our proposal is truly emancipatory!
· How do boys and girls experience this possibility? They receive it as a great opportunity and the outcome of their efforts. The message we send them is that we believe in them and that a better future is possible. At the end of the day, this project is an opportunity for the boys and girls to have a stable home where they can continue to build their future, where their right to decent housing is guaranteed, but above all to participate in a networking space, of mutual support and shared space which, we think, contributes to better emotional health.
· Do we need more cooperative housing opportunities for youngsters out of care? Obviously, we must continue to claim more opportunities and real housing policies that meet the current needs of society, and more specifically, for the young people we work with. The struggle must be common, with transformative and permanent solutions, above all, if we want things to change for the better.