Update 12 August 2015: I first posted about Santa Cruz’ shanty town near the Pancho Camurria sports centre three years ago, and if anything, it is now bigger and certainly better established than when it first came into being, and into the news. And now it is in the news again with the death of a 53-year-old British woman, said to be vulnerable and under social services care.

Local reports say that she had moved from south Tenerife around a year ago and had refused social housing that had been offered to her. Other reports, however, say that the level of her vulnerability had not been recognized by the authorities, who had not treated her case urgently enough. Police say that her death was not from natural causes, but is not being treated as suspicious: in other words, they are treating it as a drugs overdose.

Only yesterday official statistics reports said that despite the claimed economic recovery, poverty had increased very sharply, particularly among the young and the vulnerable. This poor woman’s death could not have come at a more apt time to illustrate what that actually means in practice.

Original post 28 August 2012: I’ve made a few posts before now about the increasing social problems here following on from the economic crisis, including Tourism tempers fray as crisis bites hardSocial crisis in Tenerife as crimewaves soar, and Now we really do have to be on guard, and now the press is reporting a developing crisis on the outskirts of Santa Cruz: not a cardboard city, but a real shanty town underneath the Pancho Camurria sports pavilion where 18 people now live in 15 shacks.

Tenerife director of Cáritas, Leonardo Ruiz, says that these are Canarians, not foreigners, a point he stressed to show that this crisis is now literally “hitting home”, and that these people have refused the offer of a place in a “refuge” because they prefer to maintain their independence and dignity. They are, indeed, setting up home properly for themselves, with some even having television.  Santa Cruz Social Services councillor, José Manuel Arocha, confirmed Sr Ruiz’ statement, and added that they are eating at the refuge and the La Milagrosa food kitchen in Calle La Noria, but live in their shacks as their only home, where they are more comfortable than they would be under the regime, and indignity, of being a social refuge resident.

The shacks are, inevitably, deemed “illegal”, and regardless of the official designation clearly have neither protection from the elements nor security. None the less, they are all these people have now. Sr Arocha says that they will have to be dismantled at some point, and he hoped it would be sooner rather than later; he added that it wasn’t really a matter for his departmnent anyway but that of Obras y Servicios and the Policía Local. Where these people are to go, it seems, is less important than they do actually go, and that they’re someone else’s problem. There is a Dickensian feel about the pressure to get the poor out of public view, and to move them on. One thing is clear, however, and that is that it doesn’t really matter where the authorities want them to go because at some point, in probably the very near future, there will be far more than 18 people to move and 15 shacks to pull down.


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