The homeless English teacher giving lessons to escape Barcelona

Thanks to a good Samaritan, Laso is working to raise the cash he needs to get to London

Laso with Diego Bernal (right).
Laso with Diego Bernal (right).
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Homeless man teaching English in Barcelona bars inundated with help

“Please don’t put my real name down: I’m so ashamed and I don't want anybody to recognize me,” says Laso, a Hungarian-born English teacher reduced to sleeping rough in Barcelona as he tries to save enough money to pay the €200 he needs to get to London, where he says a job awaits him.

“I have a friend in London who works at the Savoy Hotel and who can fix me up with a job,” says the 55-year-old, insisting that he refuses to beg and is instead slowly earning the money he needs for a ticket by giving English classes in bars. At night, he beds down on cardboard boxes in doorways.

Aside from his native Hungarian, Laso also speaks fluent English, French, Spanish and Romanian. He had been sleeping rough in Barcelona when he was spotted by 22-year-old good Samaritan Diego Bernal last week trying to sell packs of tissues at the traffic lights in front of Barcelona City Hall.

Aside from his native Hungarian, Laso also speaks fluent English, French, Spanish, and Romanian

“I’d seen him a couple of times while out on my motorbike,” says Diego. “The funny thing about him was that he didn't approach anybody to ask for money. He just stood there with his tissues. So one day I went up to him and offered him a few coins, but he refused. So I decided to buy him a cup of coffee and he told me his story, and then I had an idea about how I could help him to help himself.”

Laso is now giving English classes, charging a modest €7 an hour in a couple of bars close to the Joan Miró park in central Barcelona. So far he has managed to raise €45 toward his travel costs.

“I’ve worked in the top hotels on the French Riviera, six years in the United States, and in luxury inns in Canada,” explains Laso. Last summer, he came to Spain and headed for the resort town of Lloret de Mar, where he found work as a waiter. When the season finished he was told of an opportunity painting houses in Bilbao, and so headed for the northern coastal city. He worked for almost two months, but never saw a cent. Undaunted, he made his way back to Catalonia, this time to Barcelona.

You don’t sleep at all out on the streets, then your brain stops working, and it just goes on

Laso


“In reality you don’t sleep at all out on the streets, and then your brain stops working, you don’t remember things, and it just goes on, day after day,” explains Laso.

Thanks to Diego, Laso says he hopes to be in London and working within a week so that he can send money home to his mother in Hungary. “She’s 85 and has Alzheimer’s. She’s in a home, but she doesn't recognize me anymore, so at least she’ll never know about my situation,” he says.

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