Wednesday, June 12, 2024

ARGENTINA | 13-06-2023 17:43

Homeless man dies from cold as polar wave hits Buenos Aires

Man identified only as Héctor found dead in Villa Crespo as temperatures plummet at night in Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area; More than 3,400 individuals classified as homeless in City Hall’s latest homelessness census.

With temperatures plummeting as a sharp polar wave hits the capital, NGOs in and around the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area are calling on authorities to do more to assist and protect those living in extreme poverty.

The call for renewed action comes after a homeless man died in the early hours of Monday, June 12, in the City neighbourhood of Villa Crespo. 

The individual, identified by local non-government organisation Amigos en el Camino only as Héctor, was found unconscious.

"Our soul hurts... how many more friends will die in the streets?” said the group in a post on Facebook reacting to the news.

According to reports, police officers discovered the body as they attended the scene after receiving reports that the individual was irresponsible.

Judicial authorities have ordered an autopsy to determine the causes of the man’s death. There was no sign that his expiration was a result of violence, said sources, and the tragedy is likely related to the cold temperatures.

"We don't have much information on this particular case because we have not yet been able to identify the person. He had no ID and the police have not been able to identify him. So we have not yet been able to check with our databases to know if we had any intervention or if he came to one of our centres at some point," a representative from the City’s Human Development & Habitat Ministry told Perfil.

News of the death, which was confirmed by doctors from the SAME (Servicio de Atención Médica de Emergencias) emergency services, highlights the difficulties facing those living on the streets and in extreme poverty.

Last week, City officials revealed that 3,511 people are homeless in the nation’s capital, according to its annual census – a rise of 34 percent compared to last year.

Of those, 1,243 are living on the street and 2,268 people are being housed in the City’ CIS “inclusion centres” or shelters, said City Hall. 

Back in March a three-month-old baby died just metres from the Casa Rosada. The youngster had been living on the streets with her family.  


Helping the homeless

The death happened on the same day the Buenos Aires City government announced an “extraordinary” operation to help the homeless and provide assistance to those sleeping rough during the cold nights.

Under "Operativo Frío Extraordinario" (“Extraordinary Cold Operation”), an extension of an existing scheme, City officials will sweep “critical areas” and track those identified as sleeping rough. More than 50 vehicles will circulate, speaking to homeless individuals, providing meals and warm clothing, as well as information about shelters where they can spend the night. 

"It is essential that when someone sees a person in a street situation, they call [the] 108 [helpline], which is the first step in our approach," said City Human Development & Habitat Minister María Migliore.

“The number of people living on the streets is the result of many variables,” said the minister in an interview with Radio Perfil on Monday. “This increase can be explained by the great economic crisis we are experiencing at the national level, with very high inflation.”

She continued: “The street situation is profound, it is not only an economic problem. To stay on the street, one loses the network of contacts that sustained one and, in a way, trust and hope also evaporate. It is a question of mental health.”

“In CABA [Buenos Aires City], 43 percent of the people living on the streets are from the city itself, and this percentage is growing,” she warned.

Cold spell

It's unclear how long the current cold spell will last, though officials at Argentina's National Meteorological Service (SMN) said this week that this winter will be marked by higher temperatures though with some very cold days.

The SMN has issued a weather alert for the capital and 16 provinces nationwide amid plunging temperatures. 

The Proyecto 7 NGO, which works with the homeless, staged a “breakfast protest” at the Obelisk this week to demand greater support in the face of the cold wave that has gripped the city.

The organisation has criticised the methodology used by City Hall in its homelessness census, though it agrees that the number of those without a home has risen by more than 30 percent over the last year.

"We arrived to winter with a lot of people on the street and there is no answer. The National Law for Homeless People and Homeless Families has been approved for more than a year and nothing has been done," Horacio Ávila, coordinator of Project 7, said to the Télam state news agency.

Homeless people are a regular sight in and around the nation's capital, with many sleeping rough on pavements, in underground metro and train stations, inside banks and in the doorways of buildings.

Of late, an increasing number of those sleeping rough have taken to sleeping within the facilities of the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery Airport in the capital.

According to a recent article by Perfil, at least 20 people living rough died from extreme cold in Argentina last year, of which six lived in Buenos Aires City. 

Around 40 percent of the national population is classified as poor while inflation is running at more than 108.8 percent per annum.




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