A few days ago, a guest of Hogar de Cristo's hospice in Punta Arenas was assaulted in the street. His wheelchair and his few belongings were stolen. The terrible thing about these events is that those who are eternally assaulted by society, normalize it and live accustomed to being beaten. In these lines we tell you about what happened in the capital of the Magallanes region and the discrimination against this group of people.
"It is not frequent, but it is not new either", says Álvaro Rondón, head of territorial operations in Magallanes, about the beating and robbery that affected Juan, a guest of the Hogar de Cristo hospice in Punta Arenas. According to the newspaper La Prensa Austral, he was allegedly beaten in the face and, as if that were not enough, his wheelchair, jacket and bag of food were taken.
Nursing technician Dante Levicán has been working at the Hogar de Cristo hospice in Punta Arenas for eight years. From his experience, he says that the team learns of assaults on the residents through third parties, other residents, or because the police arrive to inform them or drop them off. Often, those affected do not tell what happened because they normalize it. She says: "It often happens that they are beaten. It even happens between themselves and people who hang around the areas where they roam, which is usually on the outskirts of the city center or the area where the bars are. They approach people who also have consumption problems or take advantage of them because they are more vulnerable".
According to the Ministry of Social Development, in the Magallanes region, about 175 people live on the streets. Although the figure is low, considering the more than 16 thousand at national level, it is worrying considering the inhospitable climate of Punta Arenas and other cities in the region.
"They are not seen because they are scattered, but they are also invisible because people avoid them. They avoid passing by the place where there is a conflict with homeless people and do not go to intercede. I imagine it is to avoid being involved in a fight. It happens a lot. They don't even look at them. Besides, they normalize some situations," says Dante, who takes care of 30 homeless men at the hospice.
Álvaro Rondón reflects on this case and the historical aggressions against homeless people: "As a society we have not managed to integrate them. On the contrary, what we have done is to exclude citizens like us, generating types of violence and customs that do little to help their inclusion. We have multiple examples, not only in Magallanes. The issue is that these aggressions are installed as a habitual mode of conduct and the most minimal notion of human dignity is lost. There are complex cultural canons in them, diverse, that are mixed not only with violence, exclusion, but also with habits of disrespect".
JOHN IS OK
Juan uses a wheelchair due to cognitive impairment and paresthesia that reduce his mobility. On the day of the beating, he was taken by his classmates to the hospice and Carabineros brought him back his chair.
"There are certain canons in the street of institutional violence, of gender, and we try to transmit to the hospice community that here inside is a space where we take care of ourselves, but that there is a street where they suffer assaults. The call we make is: approach a person in a street situation, look them in the eyes, ask them what their name is, tell them your name, and you will see that you will find a person like you, like me, like anyone else, who due to certain circumstances of life finds themselves in a difficult, complex situation of exclusion. By violating and discriminating, what you are doing is generating double marginalization. Start integrating, break that circle of permanent exclusion and give yourself the joy of meeting a person who has a lot to say and from whom you can learn", advises Álvaro Rondón.
-Is there more justice today for people on the street when they are assaulted?
-There are glimpses of advances in justice, of recognition of the rights of people even when they are in street situations, because they are subjects of rights. We know stories where the minimum rights are not recognized, but there are advances in that sense. In Juan's case, there was a certain level of reinstatement. They took his things, his injuries were confirmed, there was an associated procedure, the aggressor was arrested and brought to justice, which is what one would expect, but that does not always happen. This is an example that it did work and gives us hope that this is changing. However, the victim himself tended to minimize the event, which is terrible.