Barcelona social inclusion, empower 2500 homeless

by Aseel Honein
Project leader Aseel Honein shows us her studies.
Project leader Aseel Honein shows us her studies.

Shonali Banerjee and Aliza Appelbaum are In-The-Field Representatives for GlobalGiving.  They are visiting projects in Morocco, Spain and France.  Here is their most recent "postcard" from Spain: 

Unlike most other GlobalGiving partners that are usually organizations, our only current partner in Spain is a single entrepreneur who is leading her own project.  Aseel Honein, who came to GlobalGiving through a World Bank initiative, aims to empower homeless people by looking to develop long-term solutions to the problems that cause homelessness. In other words, instead of providing temporary shelter for homeless people, Aseel’s project would like to address the causes of the homelessness.  Aseel is no longer based in Barcelona, but comes back to the city from her hometown in Lebanon several times per year. 

Aseel organizes and hosts brainstorming workshops, and also plans awareness campaigns. During our meeting, Aseel (pictured), whose full-time job is as a professor of architecture and design in Lebanon, showed us some of her results. In one video, some of her Lebanese students came to spend a week in Barcelona, where they put together a demonstration with a light up swing in a park where children play during the day but homeless people sleep at night. We also saw some ideas from the workshops, including one in which beach umbrellas could have pull-down shades to turn into shacks, and another where these small shops that sell food or magazines along Las Ramblas could have small beds built into the back.  

Aliza and I were very interested to see these solutions pitched from an architecture and spacial perspective instead of a political one. We admired Aseel's community challenge approach to resolving this issue, and we're looking forward to seeing some more practical elements of this project once the research phases have been completed! 

This is the second year since this organization Mediterranean Interactive Dialogue started; and even with all friends and volunteers support, this organization rely majorly on an independent initiative and effort. Barcelona is undergoing many changes since few years back which make Barcelona's Homeless Project undergo changes and redirection its programs to address current societal problems that emerge from homelessness. 

According to published sources, the new profile of homeless people have been changed in the recent years from the traditional profile of homeless people due to the economic crisis and increased by 35%. The new profiles of homeless people are mainly ranging between immigrants, people suffering from mental health problems,  adult men with marital problems and women suffering from domestic violence, and involved in processes of separation or divorce where many of the listed above have attained higher levels of education.

According to the study by Pedro José Cabrera Cabrera, the budget for social action on homelessness in Spain is low. A generous estimate shows around 60 million Euros are assigned to help homeless people which means 15  to 19 € available per day and per person to cover all expenses ranging from food, clothes and accommodation, to maintenance and staff costs.

Theoretically speaking, the government plan and intervene in the city to ensure safety and well-being of its citizens but practically it is the private sector and non-governmental organizations that look beyond the mainstreamed requirements for what is a healthy prosperous habitat. In this organization, we believe that efficient interventions should be beyond basics as in food and shelter, but rather look deeper into the causes of the phenomenon.

The plan is to set a new network within the city that will care for homeless and provide a transitional place for rehabilitation, temporary job opportunity and a shelter until the individual is able to integrate and functions in the city So here we are, international random individuals reaching out to responsible citizens to help us bridge the gap between theory and practice, common and peculiar, collective and individualistic for us all to live happy together! 

And don’t forget that constructive and sincere feedbacks are great contributions!

Stall Proposal
Stall Proposal

Dear Friends,

Barcelona's city planning is known to be one of the most successful modules with its green spaces, walk-able streets and outdoor public places, yet, today we challenge circumstances that exhibit Barcelona as a spatial urban form that is not necessarily sustainable in its environmental, economical and social capital.

As you all know by now, the economic downfall of Spain largely influence its inhabitants and the increase of homelessness rates. Our initiative is to empower homeless individuals that have been defeated by their environment – in other words, people willing not to remain 'invisible' and to overcome their financial setback.   

Thanks to all our generous donors, we are able to conduct multi-disciplinary workshops that vary from planning, architecture, sociology and economic backgrounds to examine the different views on our cause: homelessness.

We successfully conducted local and international seminars, competition and workshops by becoming academically involved. This collaborative platform aims to bring us together with enthusiastic students, design activists and affiliated scholars to set further awareness campaigns and workshops.

I would like to present one of our participants' proposals. Karim Sawalha, a Jordanian British architecture student, has proposed a new thinking method for vending stalls of the Ramblas Streets. His one week stay in La Ramblas allowed him to stroll the streets to make his observations on how venders install their own booths, in some areas they have to dismantle to clear the streets but in many other areas they just close for the night. Karim redesigned the stall to serve as rehabilitation centers to homeless individuals in the city where he has come to realize that actually do have a purpose but circumstances left them on the streets.

Under constant watch by a supervisor, homeless people may sign up for the stall to gain work experience and a place to sleep until they are qualified enough to go back into the working world. Whether the kiosk is a souvenir shop or serving snacks ranging from ice-cream to sandwiches, the homeless worker will work in it where in the back of the stall will be a night area to sleep in- composed of four beds, personal storage space and a bathroom to share.

The Design: As the attached pictures depict the use of certain elements that are inspired by Barcelona's Famous Antonio Gaudi for his designs for the city and applying them to stalls to make a statement! Featuring each stall are two large white cones with the words “hacer cambios” highlighted along the sides, meaning “Making changes”. The design was abstracted from Gaudi’s sculptures on top of his renowned La Pedrera building, and the skins of the stalls have the same texture as one of the sculptures. In Karim's opinion: "this creates a unity, not only with historic architecture of the city but also unity between the poor and wealthy."

Finally, I would like to share that my regrets are that our website in not yet ready to present all the proposals for our dear friends, supporters and generous donors for their incredibly valued opinions and comments. So, I hereby invite you all to leave your comments on our reports wall or maybe via email:


stall drawings
stall drawings
stall in context
stall in context
Day 01 Student Workshop
Day 01 Student Workshop

First, I would like to thank our generous 100 donors for their contributions. Amid this international economic situation and international dissatisfactions from political instabilities to natural disasters, I am truly thankful for all of your trust in investing in this cause. Unfortunately, homelessness in Barcelona is increasing which is forcing us to get creative by making use of our limited resources while addressing this cause to mitigate against further dilemma's.

HOW? 20 university students from Lebanese American University (LAU) joined our team in Barcelona for one week in our community challenge workshop. The workshop aimed to raise awareness of the current city planning and social structure, aiding students with tools to campaign and create change. Workshop consisted mainly of intense 2-day-workshop with series of lectures about NGO's role and Architectural Activism limitations without social consensus and finally the use of technology to address various societal, environmental and economic issues. A special thank you to all my colleagues that made this workshop possible: Cristina Castelao, Jaime Sanz de Haro, Mbongeni Ngulube, Valentina Maini, Jonathan Minchin, Rodrigo Carbajal and Duncan.

Last but not least, I would like to wish a happy 2012 to all our donors and friends and wish them a happy sustainable year!

LAU Workshop
LAU Workshop

Dear Friends and Donors,

Your on going support has been overwhelming and definitely powered our organization's high drive.
As we have mentioned before we have been engaged in online workshops that were not necessarily a success but rather an attempt in contributing to the education of the design activism world.
This Fall semester, the Lebanese American University (LAU) will be hosting for the first time an International Design Workshop course that aims to introduce design activism and focus on the subject of homelessness in Barcelona.
Students will design shelters for homeless and test their interventions during a one week stay in Barcelona. This workshop will connect students with international street artists that address contemporary societal, environmental and economical problems through their planning and art.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for giving our organization a chance to collaborate with new schools in Barcelona, and extend my gratitude to all of our academic partners and colleagues involved in making it happen!



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Organization Information

Aseel Honein

Location: El-koura, North Lebanon - Lebanon
Project Leader:
Aseel Honein
El koura, North Lebanon Lebanon

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