According to a study carried out by the Rais Foundation, 404 people regularly sleep on the streets of Valencia. Forty-five per cent of them say they had suffered from being attacked or assaulted on at least one occasion, and 57% suffer from serious health problems.
The BSHF - Building and Social-Housing Foundation, in partnership with FEANTSA - the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless, who are coordinating the European End Street Homelessness Campaign have started this project in three cities initially: London, Barcelona and Valencia. Their aim is to have homeless-free cities in Europe by 2020.
Actor and activist Richard Gere has shown he is committed to the homeless in Valencia, a problem, he highlights, that affects the whole of society. He adds that it is crucial we all work together to make a difference as this is, in his opinion, "the only way to change the world."
Gere attended the screening of the film 'Invisibles' about the homeless, in which he is the protagonist, and the signing of agreements between the Government, the City of Valencia and the RAIS Foundation for the acquisition of ten homes for the most vulnerable homeless from the Valencian institutes.
Accompanied by his Spanish girlfriend and sponsor of the RAIS Foundation, Alejandra Silva, the actor confessed that he was "happy and proud" to work with an initiative which has "touched the hearts" of mayors, vice-presidents and ministers from several countries, with the result of them signing agreements for the homeless.
Gere explained that there are more than 60,000 homeless people in New York, of which 24,000 are children, which prompted the making of a film that reflects this problem and the need to provide opportunities for people who, not only have been rejected by society, but have also abandoned and lost touch with themselves in many cases.
"It’s not enough to say, 'I’m sorry' and 'I want to do something for them”, said the author, who emphasised that programs like ‘Housing First’ do "work" and allow homeless people to be part of a community in which everyone takes responsibility of each other including all of society.
Alejandra Silva pointed out that people living on the streets are people looking for the same as the rest of us - happiness and to feel important and valuable to someone else - and has asked people on the street, as well as institutions, to seal their commitment to projects like this one, because everyone matters and anyone can become homeless.
The vice-president of the Valencian Government, Monica Oltra, thanked Gere and Silva for being the "public face" of a project that seeks to make us tackle what we do not want to look at and encourage us to deal with it as a collective social responsibility, from a different perspective, because the paternalistic system "does not work".