Two sisters take their own lives hours before being evicted

Author: Leah Pattem

Yesterday morning, just hours before their scheduled eviction, two sisters aged 54 and 64 took their own lives.

In their apartment on Calle Navas de Tolosa, officers found a letter ordering the first attempt at their eviction for non-payment of rent. The sisters were living in a flat owned by a private landlord, who filed a lawsuit in May 2023 for almost two years of non-payment for which he was owed €9,000, according to El País. The delayed payment coincided with the passing of their mother in February 2021 after she contracted Covid.

At this point, the tenancy was passed onto the two sisters, who had become increasingly isolated without their mother. The sisters did not attend court proceedings and the council claims they were unable to reach the pair to assess their vulnerability.

Sadly, this tragedy is not an isolated case. On March 22, a 70-year-old man took his own life in a park in Sabadel, where he was sleeping rough after losing his home. He’d been unable to work due to health problems and owed €3,334.

On 15 May last year, a woman called Melanie had lost her job and had been unable to pay the rent for several months. When officers went to her Barcelona home to evict her, they found she had already taken her own life.

In many of these cases, including those involving survivors of suicide, victims were unaware or incapable of following mechanisms put in place to assist them during the eviction process. This is a failure of public authorities in guaranteeing the constitutional right to housing.

This is real estate violence created by a political system designed to fail its people. This is not a housing crisis, this is a deliberate attack on poor and vulnerable people which is inextricably linked to lower life expectancy.

In the last 10 years, more than a million people have been evicted from their homes in Spain, and deliberately opaque bureaucracy is preventing vulnerable people from accessing state support.

The Sindicato de Inquilinas do their best to reach tenants and assist them in the process of eviction, but they don’t always know these tenants exist. The state, however, does.

Specialists remind us that suicide does not usually have a single trigger, but is the result of psychological, biological and social factors that can be treated. People with suicidal behaviour can contact 024, a suicide helpline set up by the Ministry of Health. They can also contact the Telephone of Hope (717 003 717), dedicated to the prevention of this problem.

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