The Good Life House
A documentary by
Antonio Villanueva Martín and Carlos Rodríguez Aristizábal
“To the needed, the hungry, the lonely that wanders around with no direction, to the homeless, to the worst of all men. Here, if he wants, he can start fresh; the only requirement is willingness and affection from all in the house.”
Sign at the entrance of The Good Life House
Work in progress
Aprox. 90 minutes
Brief History of The Good Life House
A decayed house in a semi – rural area of the “Palma Palmilla” neighborhood, located in Malaga, was occupied during the summer of 2008 by “El Chule”. He was a recovered criminal and drug addict from the same neighborhood. The intentions of “El Chule” were to make this house a safe place for drug addicts and for the homeless, regardless of race, nationality or religion.
Since the moment of its establishment, hopeless, dispossessed people of all kinds started to arrive at the house seeking a place of their own. After four years of existence, the house is a consolidated social project. This house is a type of refuge that is difficult to define, where people are welcomed and offered a roof, bed, and meals. Its residents do not have anywhere else to stay, not even in a hospital to cure their diseases. Illegal immigrants, criminals waiting to be judged, and drug addicts with a strong desire to rehabilitate, all share this house.
It is not a rehabilitation center, but it helps them to improve their life conditions. It is not a clinic for detoxification, but it has been very successful in improving the conditions of extreme drug abusers. It is not a reform center for criminals, although judges allow many of the condemned to serve their time at the house by accomplishing community work.
The house infrastructure has not been improved much since its establishment. Its members have been re-building some living areas, but still the house’s appearance remains in crumbling conditions in the eyes of any technician.
In spite of the lack of recognition from the public administration, the house frequently receives sick people discharged from hospitals, and the leaders of the house have made arrangements with police officials to aid in the relinquishment of outlaws that are sought by the authorities. In addition, the residents of this house provide community service to the Alhaurín Correctional facility by giving self-improvement talks to the inmates. They also deliver meals to other poor families in the neighborhood.
As the inhabitants of the house overcome their condition, they assume a responsibility with the rest of the group. The rehabilitated people, then, not only better themselves, but also help, with their own experiences, others with similar circumstances to join.
There are no professionals working in the house. The leaders of the house are the same people that only a few years ago were drugging themselves on the streets. In addition, the strategy for survival is a paradox. For example, “Semi” who was addicted to pills, is the one in charge of distributing the medicine. “Cubero”, a professional cook with a depressive condition, and his partner “Antonio”, who he met at a psychiatric hospital, together form a team that provides 80.000 meals per year, in periods of crisis.
At first glance, the house may seem like chaos; however, it is a functional chaos, with rules that originate from the dynamic cohabitation of 60 different people residing in the same house.
On the top of a hill in the most marginal neighborhood in Malaga, of southern Spain, is a ruinous house where about 60 men and women live. They survive with almost nothing, including no external aid from the government or the community. Inhabitants of the Good Life House struggle day by day to leave behind a life of drug addiction, criminal and jail experiences, and all kinds of social marginalization.
In the spring of 2011, the Good Life House organized a fundraiser, a concert featuring “Diego El Cigala,” in order to obtain economic resources to sustain their house and members. The concert was completely sold out.
Days later, after Miguel’s death, who was the person in charge of finding food for the house members, the meals rapidly became scarce.
All of the house members attended Miguel’s funeral.
In spite of the precarious situation in the house, after Miguel’s death, the house continued existing for the rest of the house residents. Each day, every member wakes up to assist run-away children. Older members, who were once drug addicts or criminals, motivate the children and teenagers in the community of Palma Palmilla to get dressed, eat breakfast and attend school. They want these children to have different life experiences than they had, so that they do not end up in the Good Life House.
Currently, Ramón and Antonio continue to represent the residents with judicial problems and impede that they are incarcerated in exchange for social service and commitments of good moral behavior.
“Semi” still distributes the pills and the methadone, provided by the government, needed by many in the house. He invites the addicted members to lessen their doses each day, because he believes that these drugs are very addictive, just like the other drugs that they used to take on the streets. “Semi” has become a role model in every way; he even quit his tobacco use.
“El Chule” has completely given himself to God, and frequently goes up the hill to pray for the wellbeing of all the house members. “El Chule” is deeply disappointed by the politicians who had promised aid that never came.
Benito comes in and out from his mental crises; one day he sees his wife inside his pillow, and the next day he wants to escape from the house, but the following day he appears recuperated. Jail is often a reality for Benito whenever he is going through one of his crises.
“Yuli”, the only female leader in the house, tries to maintain strong while Pablo, her partner, has fallen back into his drug and alcohol abuse. She deeply desires to start a new life outside of the house, either alone or with Pablo.
“Sandokán”, who has gone through the most radical change in the house, was incarcerated during the summer of 2011, mobilizing all of the house members to work towards his release.
Antonio, a very important collaborator to the house in the judicial and administrative affairs, believes that his time with the house is coming to an end. He would like to eventually separate himself from the house and initiate his own professional life now that he is back in Spain, although he recognizes that The Good Life House has been a tremendous experience that has changed him profoundly.
Just like “Yuli”, other residents of the house have been able to fully rehabilitate their conditions. The next step for them, however, is just as difficult as the previous ones. The rehabilitated residents often find themselves in a state of confusion, wondering how and what to do as they insert themselves into the functional society. These newly rehabilitated residents are also finding themselves weary of deciding whether or not to abandon the house and to leave the others behind or to continue with the Good Life House project, which is currently in jeopardy of falling apart due to lack of economic resources. Upon leaving the house, residents are faced with societal marginalization, even though they feel recuperated and completely functional. Jail, drugs, and death are all pending worries of the residents’ imminent futures.