AROUND 500 homeless people will seek shelter this winter in centres provided by the Councils of Palma and Majorca for destitute people, immigrants, drug addicts and others who live on the streets during the summmer. The director of the Palma Council's Social Services department, Toni Colom, said that with the arrival of the cold weather, all 637 available places in the shelters have been 100 percent occupied. The Can Pere Antoni hostel (managed by the city council with 57 places available), gives refuge to young and older people at risk of social exclusion, and gives them the opportunity to get back into work by running training courses. They are on the street through personal problems or addictions, but with dedication it is possible to rehabilitate them into society, he said. On the other hand the reception centres of the Social Services Institute of Majorca, which have a capacity of 519 places, give priority to homeless people in a situation of extreme exclusion. According to the organisation's director of social services (S'Intitut), Kati Borras, some 30 people wander aimlessly through the streets of Palma because they refuse to go to a hostel, although there would be a place for them if they wanted it, she said. The Municipal Police only force people off the streets into reception centres when the temperatures sink below 5 degrees. Normally we can't force them, only encourage them, said Colom, for whom it is a shame that when the weather gets warmer many people who have started programmes of detoxification or work training leave the hostels, thus interrupting their rehabilitation programmes. The Palma Council also manages a centre with 60 places exclusively for women and their children. It offers the women, most of whom are immigrant victims of abuse, psychological support. It also offers training courses for the children of working age so that they can get a paid job he said. Not all work with homeless people is done in reception centres. There is also a service run by the Red Cross and financed by the Balearic Government, S'Institut and the Palma Council, which goes around the streets of Palma every night with a mobile unit (UMES), distributing food and blankets to those who insist on spending the night in the open. The unit has a psychologist, a nurse and a social worker.
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