Street Angels

Permanent campaign Mondays to Fridays all year long. We go to the socially-marginalized and conflictive areas of the cities. We distribute food and information leaflets with the addresses and phone numbers of our centres.  

 

Every day, a van with a team of three or four volunteers goes to these places to hand out food and talk to the drug addicts. Those who decide to enter the programme are taken straight away to our first stage centres where they can get a shower and some clean clothes and then begin their detox stage.

 

Through these activities REMAR is able to contact with the future beneficiaries of our programmes designed to help drug addicts and anyone who is at risk or suffering from social exclusion. As a result of the work carried out by the Street Angels in 2003 a total of 1,400 people were admitted to our various centres throughout Spain. It is worth mentioning that there are also a great number of people who, although they do not enter our centres, receive our assistance through our visits to prisons, hospitals and socially-marginalized areas. In the province of Madrid 689 people were admitted via the Street Angels programme and moved to different centres throughout the country. The rest of them were admitted directly into the centres of REMAR Andalucía, Aragón, Baleares, Canarias, Castilla La Mancha, Castilla León, Cataluña, Extremadura, Galicia, Murcia, Navarra, País Vasco, La Rioja, Valencia and Vizcaya, as well as those in other countries where REMAR is active.

 

 

 

We have learnt that, in order to help the addict to make the decision to move on and kick his/her drug habit, we have to go to the environment in which he/she lives. Almost from its very beginnings, REMAR has been visiting socially-marginalized areas and drug zones, taking food (snacks, bread, biscuits, milk and hot chocolate drinks at nights). Whilst distributing the food and drinks we enter into conversation with those who are interested in seeking help, and in coming off the streets and enrolling on the rehab programme. We distribute information leaflets and magazines with the addresses and phone numbers of our centres. Those who decide to enrol on the programme have the option of being taken straight away to one of our first-phase centres where they receive a hot shower and clean clothes, and begin the first stage of detox.

 

 

BENEFICIARIES

 

2,400 people per month IN MADRID who receive a meal and information about how they can receive help with their problem. 1,200 people per year IN MADRID who are admitted to a rehabilitation centre.

We go to areas of drug trafficking and drunkenness, where addicts wander about and often spend the whole night. We assist whoever wants to be assisted.

We can guarantee them a place in one of our rehab centres, where we send them if they decide to be admitted, because REMAR has two main principles:

  -We never say "no" to anyone who asks for a place in one of our centres

  -Our doors remain open day and night, offering immediate care and assistance.

The cost to the beneficiaries:  

  -The assistance provided is completely free of charge.

 

ACTIVITIES

 

  • The formation of work teams to make visits through the streets of Madrid.

  • The organization of the routes for the visits and the preparation of food (sandwiches, biscuits and drinks) and information leaflets.
  • The distribution of the food and information material to those who gather around the van.

  • Informal conversation with the beneficiaries and the establishing of relationships with them as we repeat our visits to the area.

  • Transportation to the first-stage REMAR centres for those who decide to enrol on the rehabilitation programme.

 

OBJECTIVES

 

  • To assist in covering some of the basic needs (especially food) of drug addicts in a state of total abandonment.

  • To encourage the rehabilitation and social reinsertion of drug addicts by providing them with information, counselling, support and help in making the decision to enter a rehabilitation programme.

 

 

A DRUG ADDICT TO WHOM WE OFFER HELP AND ADVICE

 

It is four o’clock on a very hot afternoon. A white van drives slowly into the neighbourhood and parks alongside a wall. The road is full of huge potholes. Cars are entering and leaving continuously. Hundreds of people who seem to be poverty-stricken and socially-marginalized are going to and fro.

Lying on the ground are used syringes and next to the wall “someone” is injecting himself. Once the van is parked, people begin to gather around, asking “What are you giving out today?” Cartons of fruit juice, yogurts, packets of biscuits, etc…. The volunteer workers are well trained and they begin to distribute the food…

There are a lot of people waiting behind the van: young men and women with an absent look on their face, their eyes full of hunger, their clothes dirty and their bodies full of cuts and scars. Many of them have a syringe lodged above their ear. For someone coming there for the first time, it is almost unbelievable that something like this could exist in a civilized country like Spain.

This is a brief snapshot of the marginal district known as 'Las Barranquillas', an underworld close to the borough of Vallecas in Madrid. Nowadays this settlement is the largest hypermarket for drug sales in the Spanish capital, and one of the most important in the whole of Europe. 70% of all the drugs in the Madrid region are sold here; with another twelve smaller drug markets in the same region. The greatest turnout of people is on Thursdays and Fridays because of the many petty traffickers who come to make their purchases ready for the weekend, and also the dealers who come from the neighbouring provinces.

Living within this enclave are gypsy clans whose shacks are used exclusively as sales outlets. These clans, together with other international gangs, control the trafficking of narcotics in Las Barranquillas. In their huts they usually keep a 300 gram supply of drugs, but can provide larger quantities depending upon who is the client. There are many different methods of protection from the police. For example, they use drug addicts to bring the drugs in and they use special techniques to eliminate the supplies if there is an inspection. As a sign that the shack is open for business they make a bonfire at the entrance, and they keep a special eye on those clients who are not known to be reliable. The addicts have the option of being able to inject themselves there and then, within the shack, and they are allowed to pay either with cash or with stolen goods. The clans contract drivers who, for a commission, bring the addicts in direct to the shacks. These drug taxis are called “cundas”.

There are only six police officers patrolling this settlement, but they do their best to stop the drug trafficking, even by mingling amongst the drug addicts. In this drug district there is a great deal of delinquency. The police recover on average three stolen vehicles per day. In the last two years three people have been murdered in the Barranquillas district. The most recent incident took place in February 2005 when a male corpse with burns on its testicles was discovered. The groups of gypsies living here infringe the law in various ways.
The drug addicts wander around here like zombies all day and night. They are the victims who have to struggle every day in order to survive. In this shanty town they are wasting away their existence. Drugs are their way of life. In order to get their daily dosage they are obliged to steal, prostitute themselves, sell syringes, traffic drugs, etc. The drug which is becoming more and more popular is cocaine, but it is also more risky. It leads to psychological disorders and admissions into hospital. One gram of coke costs between 40 and 60 Euros.
The amount of heroin consumption is dropping. It comes mainly from Afghanistan and it is controlled by bands of Turks, Kurds and Iranians. One dose costs about 10 Euros. There is a substance known as “speed-ball” which is a mixture of heroin and cocaine. It is cheaper than cocaine alone but also causes a stronger addiction. Despite all this, last year there was a small reduction in the amount of drugs consumed in the Barranquillas district, coinciding with a slight rise in the number of people taking part in methadone programmes.

The van which is referred to at the beginning of this article belongs to the N.G.O. REMAR (a non-governmental Christian organization) which firmly believes it has been called to work towards the eradication in a practical form of the problems caused by drugs. Almost every day a Remar vehicle is sent to the Barranquillas district, to show the love of Jesus Christ in a practical way, serving others. The food which the Remar volunteers distribute is just a small gesture of their motivation. They also talk to the addicts about the possibility of quitting and renouncing a life of drug addiction, encouraging them specifically to enroll into one of the many centres which Remar has established all over the world. Leaflets are distributed with a clear message combating drug addiction and a contact telephone for those interested in being admitted into a Remar centre. Those who decide to take this step are transported straightaway by the volunteer workers to the admissions office located in Calle Franco Rodriguez 14 in Madrid.

 

Information about the Las Barranquillas district:

  • Approximately 3,000 people come to Las Barranquillas daily
  • The district has 120 shack-type buildings belonging to 7 gypsy clans with a turnover of more than 70,000 Euros daily from 30 points of sale, 5 of which are open 24 hours a day.
  • The rent per week for one of these shacks is between 600 and 1,200 Euros.
  • In 2001 the Community of Madrid attended approximately 21,000 drug addicts and handed out some 2 million syringes.
  • Approximately 150 drug-related deaths are registered each year, more than 50% of them caused by the “white powder”.

 

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