Over the next few days many of us will be dashing around the shopping centres and supermarkets buying presents for family and friends and stocking up on mince pies, Christmas crackers and all the little extra essentials we need to enjoy the festive season. Supermarket checkouts will be kept busy from morning till night and toy stores, mobile phone shops and jewellers will embrace the most financially productive time of the year.
However, while we are enjoying a little Christmas spirit and admiring the illuminations and decorations, it is hard to ignore the fact that there are so many people who cannot enjoy the seasonal festivities, simply because they have no money, and in many cases, nowhere to live. Unfortunately, homelessness and poverty is a big problem in many of the towns along the Costa del Sol, especially in Torremolinos and Fuengirola, and the situation always seems to be more evident during the Christmas holidays.
Homeless people can be found begging outside supermarkets, banks, bus stations and on street corners, and yet they are most often ignored as shoppers shuffle past them trying not to make eye contact.
Some of these people have come from Eastern Europe and Africa, while others are Spaniards whose financial situation has left them destitute and with little chance of finding their way back into a system that seems to have forgotten them. There are also those who do not want assistance because they are quite content to live on the streets.
Many of these people live in makeshift shelters situated in vacant shop doorways or derelict buildings and they spend their days wandering the streets seeking a few coins in order to survive each day. Some residents claim the homeless people are an eyesore and would prefer they were somewhere else other than in their neighbourhood; an attitude known as NIMBY, or, not in my back yard.
Thankfully, there are several associations on the Costa del Sol that are renowned for their solidarity with the needy and these are run by selfless volunteers who give their time freely.