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HE STICKS A PILLOW INTO HIS BACKPACK TO PUT HIS HEAD ON WHEN HE SLEEPS.HE DOESN'T LIKE TO LIE DIRECT ONTHE PILLOW.
THIS IS JORGE. HE IS 43 YEARS OLD ANDLIVES ON THE STREETS FOR A DECADE.
ROQUE GRAZZIOLA, AN EDUCATOR OF THE 'COMEÇAR DE NOVO' MOVEMENT ('START AGAIN'), SAYS THE BRAZILIAN HOMELESS POPULATION HAS BEEN INCREASING. HE BELIEVES THAT WHILE THE COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC GROWTH IN THE LAST FEW YEARS HAS BEEN POSITIVE FOR SOME SOCIAL CLASSES, IT HAS ALSO CREATED A CRISIS FOR THE OTHERS.
A STUDY COMMISSIONED BY THE BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT COUNTED 31,922 ADULTS LIVING ON THE STREETS BETWEEN AUGUST 2007 AND MARCH 2008. THIS NUMBER INCLUDES 71 CITIES: 23 STATE CAPITALS AND 48 MUNICIPALITIES WITH MORE THAN 300,000 INHABITANTS. HOWEVER, THE SAMPLES USED IN THIS STUDY OMITTED LARGE CAPITALS LIKE SÃO PAULO, BELO HORIZONTE, RECIFE AND PORTO ALEGRE, AND 5,494 OTHER BRAZILIAN MUNICIPALITIRES - THE ACTUAL HOMELESS POPULATION IS LIKELY MUCH LARGER.
THREE BLANKETS.
IN THE CITY OF SÃO PAULO ALONE, OTHER RESEARCHERS COUNTED 10,399 STREETRESIDENTS IN 2003. THIS NUMBER ROSE TO13,666 IN 2009
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EVEN BETTER: IF ALL OF THIS COULD BEWRITTEN AND READ. SO IN 2000 ROSINA CREATED THE NEWSPAPER 'BOCA DE RUA',  A QUARTERLY PUBLICATION WHOSE STORIES ARE CHOSEN, RESEARCHED AND WRITTEN BY  HOMELESS THEMSELVES. THEY THEN SELL  THE NEWSPAPER ON THE STREETS. SINCE  2003, THERE IS ALSO A SUPPLEMENT,  'BOQUINHA', WRITTEN BY HOMELESS  CHILDREN.
 
IN SOUTHERN BRAZIL, A STUDY BY THE CITY HALL OF PORTO ALEGRE (1.4 MILLION INHABITANTS) IDENTIFIED, BETWEEN 2007 AND 2008, 1,203 PEOPLE LIVING ON THE STREETS. THIS NUMBER ROSE TO 1.347 IN 2011. IN 1995 IT WAS JUST 222.
ON FEBRUARY 2ND 2012, AN UNDERGRADUATE IN RIO DE JANEIRO WAS ATTACKED BY FIVE YOUNG MEN WHEN HE TRIED TO DEFEND A HOMELESS PERSON FROM THEM. (THIS WRITER DID WHAT MOST JOURNALISTS NEVER BOTHER TO DO – GIVE THE NAME OF THE HOMELESS PERSON, NOT ONLY THE NAME OF THE UNDERGRADUATE).
ON MAY 15TH 2011, IN THE STATE OF MINAS GERAIS, EIGHT STREET RESIDENTS FELL ILL AFTER BEING POISONED BY A MAN WHO OFFERED THEM A BOTTLE OF CACHAÇA FILLED WITH RAT POISON.
MORE SHOCKING, A STUDY OF NEWS ARTICLESREVEALED THAT, IN THE FIRST FEW MONTHS  OF 2012 ALONE, MORE THAN THREE HUNDRED  STREET RESIDENTS WERE KILLED IN  BRAZIL.
BEFORE ‘BOCA DE RUA’, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE REGULAR BRAZILIAN POPULATION AND THE STREET RESIDENTS WAVERED BETWEEN INVISIBILITY AND INTOLERANCE. MOST PEOPLE BARELY NOTICED THEM —EXCEPT WHEN THEIR PRESENCE ON SIDEWALKS ANNOYED THE DWELLERS. IN SOME CASES, A HOMELESS PERSON IS NOT EVEN SEEN AS A HUMAN BEING, LEADING TO EPISODES LIKE THESE:
“PEOPLE THINK THAT THE HOMELESS CAN ESCAPE THEIR SITUATION IF THEY WORK HARD,” SAYS ROQUE GRAZZIOLA, FOUNDER OF ‘COMEÇAR DE NOVO’ (‘START AGAIN’), “BUT HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO WORK WITHOUT THE TOOLS FOR THAT?” THAT’S WHY GRAZZIOLA CREATED AN INFORMAL SPACE FOR TRAINING AND GENERATING INCOME AND AWARENESS ABOUT THE RIGHTS OF THE HOMELESS. IN THE HEADQUARTER OF THE GROUP, THEY RUN ACTIVITIES SUCH AS:
EVEN LIVING ON THE STREETS, THESE PEOPLE PLAY ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ROLES. STREET PEOPLE OFTEN WORK AS ‘CATADORES’, MEANING THEY COLLECT WASTE – PAPER AND PLASTIC – FROM GARBAGE CANS AND STREETS TO SELL TO RECYCLING COMPANIES. OTHERS EARN MONEY FROM GUARDING PARKED CARS FROM THIEVES.
JORGE COLLECTS BROOMSTICKS FROM THE GARBAGES TO USE IN HIS CART. SOMETIMES THERE ARE NAILS IN THE BROOMSTICKS, SO HE BEATS THE NAIL WITH A STONE TO BEND IT AND TO NOT GET CUT.
CONTAINERS LIKE THIS WERE DISTRIBUTED THROUGHOUT THE CITY BY THE PORTO ALEGRE CITY HALL FOR SEPARATING RECYCLABLE WASTE FROM ORGANIC WASTE. ONLY NON-RECYCLABLES SHOULD BE PUT HERE, BUT IF YOU OPEN ANY OF THESE CONTAINERS, YOU CAN FIND PLASTIC BOTTLES, CANS, PAPER, WOOD AND GLASS. OFTEN THIS KIND OF WASTE OCCUPIES MORE SPACE IN THE PUBLIC GARBAGE CANS THAN BIODEGRADABLES.
IT IS NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND EMPLOYMENT WHEN YOU HAVE NO PLACE TO TAKE CARE OF PERSONAL HYGIENE OR REST AND RENEW YOUR ENERGY FOR THE NEXT DAY.
JORGE USES THE BROOMSTICKS FOR: 1) INCREASING THE HEIGHT OF HIS CART AND THEREFORE ITS CAPACITY, AND 2) ORGANIZING HIS BELONGINGS.  ON ONE BROOMSTICK HE HANGS SUPERMARKET BAGS WITH FOOD, POTS AND KITCHEN TOOLS; ON ANOTHER, HE PUTS THE RECYCLABLES; IN A BUCKET, THERE ARE HIS KNICK KNACKS; AND SO ON.
CUTTING AND SEWING – THE MOVEMENT ACQUIRED SEWING MACHINES. INITIALLY, THEY WERE ABLE TO PRODUCE TOWELS FOR GAS STATIONS AND CAR REPAIR SHOPS, BUT THERE ARE OTHER USES FOR THE MACHINES COMING TO LIGHT. EDUARDO DUTRA, A YOUNG HOMELESS MAN PASSIONATE FOR FASHION, USES THEM TO MAKE HATS TO SELL.  ART – ARTISTIC ACTIVITY IS ENCOURAGED IN THE MOVEMENT IN MEDIA LIKE SCULPTURE AND FABRIC PAINTING. TWO STREET RESIDENTS ARE VISUAL ARTISTS.  ELECTRONIC RECYCLING – THE NEW GOAL OF THE MOVEMENT IS TO GET HEADQUARTERS SET UP FOR ELECTRONIC WASTE RECYCLING. THE CURRENT HEADQUARTER, ALTHOUGH INAPPROPRIATE FOR THIS KIND OF WORK, ALREADY CONTAINS MANY OF THESE MATERIALS, WHICH ARE BEING USED FOR TRAINING WORKSHOPS, IN ORDER TO PREPARE THE GROUP.  POLICY AND RIGHTS – THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ACTION FOR GRAZZIOLA. EVERY MORNING AT 10, WHEN AROUND 15 STREET RESIDENTS ASSEMBLE THERE, HE USES THE FIRST MINUTES OF THE MEETING TO TALK ABOUT THE RIGHTS THAT THEY, AS CITIZENS, NEED TO KNOW THAT THEY ARE ENTITLED TO.
THERE ARE OTHER INITIATIVES OR MOVEMENTS FOR THE HOMELESS. IN RIO DE  JANEIRO AND SÃO PAULO, THE MAGAZINE  ‘OCAS’ IS SOLD BY STREET RESIDENTS. IN  SALVADOR, NORTHEAST OF THE COUNTRY, THE  NEWSPAPER ‘AURORA DA RUA’ IS LIKE THE  ‘BOCA DE RUA’ OF PORTO ALEGRE, GIVING  VOICE TO THOSE WHO USUALLY DON'T HAVE  ONE. THIS IS ALSO THE CASE OF "A LAJE" A  STREET NEWSPAPER OF THE CITY OF  CURITIBA.
JORGE OCCASIONALLY HAS TO REORGANIZE HIS BELONGINGS. HE ACCUMULATES SO MANY THINGS THAT IT BECOMES DIFFICULT TO PUSH THE CART, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE OF THE UNEVEN PAVING OF THE STREETS. “THEN I BUST MY BALLS AND THROW A LOT OF STUFF AWAY,” HE SAYS.
MANY PEOPLE ASK WHY THESE PEOPLE DON'T SEEK HELP FROM A RELATIVE OR A FRIEND? AN ACCUSATION IS IMPLIED IN THIS QUESTION, AS IF THE HOMELESS ARE FOOLISH ENOUGH TO NOT HAVING THOUGHT OF THIS POSSIBILITY. THE ANSWER IS MORE COMPLICATED.
ON MARCH 5TH 2009, THE 'ZEIT MAGAZIN'PUBLISHED AN ARTICLE BY THE GREAT  GERMAN JOURNALIST GÜNTER WALLRAFF,  KNOWN FOR HIS ABILITY TO DISGUISE  HIMSELF. THIS TIME, HE TURNED HIMSELF  INTO A HOMELESS PERSON AND FACED THE  COLDEST NIGHT THAT YEAR (-15 ºC) UNDER  AN OPEN SKY. WALLRAFF ALSO LIVED IN  SHELTERS AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS WHICH  PROTECT THE STREET RESIDENTS IN ORDER  TO SHOW HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS. ON ONE  OCCASION, HE MET A DRUG ADDICT WHO  EXPLAINED WHY HE COULDN’T ASK FOR HELP  FROM HIS DAUGHTER: “HOW CAN I GO TO MY  DAUGHTER’S HOME NOW AND LOOK HER IN  THE EYES? LIKE THIS, AS A COMPLETE  LOSER?”
LIVING ON THE STREETS IS USUALLY ONLY A TEMPORARY SOLUTION, AN ALTERNATIVE TAKEN DURING A ROUGH PERIOD OF LIFE. INDEED, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO SPEND SOME TIME BEING HOMELESS AND LATER GO BACK TO AN APARTMENT OR HOUSE. BUT THIS ISN’T WHAT HAPPENS WITH MOST –– THEY DEVELOP A BOND WITH THE STREET AND WITH THE NEW PEOPLE THEY LIVE WITH, WHO ARE NOW FAMILY. THROUGH THIS, A STREET CULTURE SURFACES, AND IT IS NOT EASY TO MOVE AWAY FROM IT ANYMORE. IT IS SIMILAR TO SOMEONE WHO HAS LIVED IN A HOUSE FOR YEARS AND HAS HIS LIFE STORY THERE, BUT SUDDENLY IS FORCED TO MOVE FROM A BUILDING BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT WILL OPEN A ROAD THERE OR A COMPANY WILL BUILD A GIANT NEW REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT.
IN MANY WAYS, THE ORGANIZATION OF LIFE ON THE STREETS IS NOT THAT DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF INDOOR LIFE. EVERYBODY KNOWS SOMEONE WHO LIVES WITH THEIR FAMILY OR ALONE, WHO SHARES A PLACE IN A RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY OR HAS A PET. THIS DIVERSITY IS SEEN ON THE STREETS, TOO, WITH THE DIFFERENCE THAT HERE THE WALLS – WHEN THEY EXIST – ARE MADE WITH CARDBOARD, AND THE ROOF MAY BE A VIADUCT OR A PORCH. IN GROUPS OF STREET RESIDENTS THERE ARE RULES FOR LIVING TOGETHER. 
FOR THE HOMELESS PEOPLE, THE PLACE WHERE THEY SPEND THE NIGHT IS THEIR HOME, AND THE CART IS ALL THEY OWN.
IN THE SAME ARTICLE, WALLRAFF TOLD AN AMAZING STORY. DURING HIS RESEARCH WORK, ONE OF THE STREET RESIDENTS, WITH WHOM HE HAD LIVED, DIED. THIS MAN WOULD BE BURIED AS AN INDIGENT BECAUSE THE AUTHORITIES DIDN’T BOTHER TO INVESTIGATE HIS IDENTITY IN ORDER TO REACH HIS FAMILY. BUT WALLRAFF KNEW THE MAN’S LAST NAME AND THAT HE CAME FROM BERLIN. WHAT DID WALLRAFF DO? HE LOOKED IN THE PHONE BOOK AND FOUND 31 NUMBERS FOR PEOPLE WITH THE SAME LAST NAME AS THE DECEASED. HE CALLED THE FIRST NUMBER ON THE LIST. A WOMAN ANSWERED. WHEN WALLRAFF ASKED HER IF SHE KNEW THE MAN WHO JUST DIED, SHE BEGAN TO CRY. IT WAS HIS MOTHER.
JORGE WRITES IN A JOURNAL, BUT HE DOESN'T SHARE WHAT HE’S WRITING.
THIS NEGLECT BY THE AUTHORITIES CAN BE FOUND IN BRAZIL AS WELL. THERE ARE CONSTANT STORIES OF THE STREET RESIDENTS HAVING THEIR CARTS CONFISCATED BY THE COPS. ANOTHER SITUATION IS WHEN THE FIREFIGHTERS HOSE DOWN THE PLACE (USUALLY SIDEWALKS) WHERE THOSE PEOPLE LIVE, USING FORCE TO MOVE THE HOMELESS ELSEWHERE. IN OTHER CASES, THE BELONGINGS OF THE HOMELESS ARE STOLEN BY THIEVES AND THERE IS NO AUTHORITY TO COMPLAIN TO.
THERE ARE TWO BIG RIVAL SOCCER CLUBS IN PORTO ALEGRE: GRÊMIO AND INTERNACIONAL. FOR MANY PEOPLE BORN IN THE STATE OF RIO GRANDE DO SUL, ONE OF THE EARLIEST CHOICES IN LIFE IS TO DECIDE WHAT TEAM IS THEIR FAVORITE. JORGE IS ‘COLORADO’, WHAT MEANS THAT HE IS A FAN OF INTERNACIONAL. THIS RED PAD SHOWS THE TEAM LOGO.
IT IS INTERESTING TO NOTE THAT THE POPULAR RESTAURANT LOOKS  LIKE A UNIVERSITY CAFETERIA, BOTH IN THE STRUCTURE AND TYPE OF FOOD  SERVED.
IN PORTO ALEGRE, NEAR THE BUS STATION, THERE IS A POPULAR RESTAURANT MAINTAINED BY THE STATE WHICH OFFERS MEALS FOR JUST 1 REAL (50 US CENTS). ON MONDAY JULY 16TH, THE MENU INCLUDED RICE, BEANS, MINCED MEAT WITH SAUCE, POTATO PUREE AND LETTUCE. 650 MEALS ARE SERVED EVERY DAY. ANYBODY CAN HAVE LUNCH THERE, BUT THE SOCIAL WORKERS GISELE KUHN KNEVITZ AND KÁTIA PEREIRA STATE THAT 80 PERCENT OF THE CUSTOMERS ARE PEOPLE LIVING ON THE STREETS. GISELE AND KÁTIA WORK IN A SMALL ROOM NEXT TO THE RESTAURANT ENTRANCE, DISTRIBUTING FREE TICKETS (WHEN NEEDED) AND FORWARDING SOME CASES TO HOSPITALS, SHELTERS OR SERVICES THAT SPECIALIZE IN ADDICTION TREATMENT.
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JORGE USES THIS IRON SLAB TO PROTECT THE WALL AGAINST THE FIRE. HE DOES NOT WANT TO DAMAGE THIS HOUSE, EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NOBODY LIVING OR WORKING THERE. IT IS AN EMPTY PROPERTY.
THE FIRE IS MADE WITH ALCOHOL INSIDE A CAN OF TUNA.
THE GRILL FOR THE POT IS A REFRIGERATOR SHELF CUT IN HALF.
ROQUE GRAZZIOLA REMARKS THAT MANY JOURNALISTS, WHEN WRITING ABOUT HOMELESSNESS, USUALLY CLOSE THEIR ARTICLES ENPHASIZING THAT THE CITY OFFERS SHELTERS TO HOST THIS POPULATION, INFERRING THAT THE PEOPLE WHO REMAIN ON THE STREET WANT TO. BUT WHY DOES A HOMELESS PERSON DECIDE NOT TO GO TO THE SHELTERS? “THIS IS THE QUESTION THAT NEEDS TO BE ASKED”, SAYS GRAZZIOLA.
ANOTHER FACT TO CONSIDER IS THE SHELTERS’ CAPACITY. ACCORDING TO GRAZZIOLA, THERE IS SPACE AVAILABLE IN THESE PLACES FOR ONLY 1/3 OF THE STREET POPULATION OF PORTO ALEGRE. THIS MEANS THAT, IF THE HOMELESS PEOPLE HAVE THE INTENTION OF SPENDING THE NIGHT IN A SHELTER, THEY MUST ARRIVE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFTERNOON AND WAIT IN LINE FOR HOURS – AND ALL WITHOUT THE ASSURANCE THAT, IN THE END, THEY WILL GET TO COME IN! THIS IS A ROUTINE OF UNCERTAINTY. ALSO STAYING IN LINE, FOR THOSE WHO WORK TO COLLECT CARDBOARD THROUGHOUT THE CITY, INTERRUPTS THEIR WORK — WHICH REDUCES THEIR ALREADY LEAN INCOME SOURCE.
THOSE SITUATIONS DON’T EXIST ONLY IN BRAZIL. ONCE MORE, THE REPORTAGE BY WALLRAFF IN GERMANY IS A GREAT EXAMPLE BECAUSE HE REPORTS ON THE DIFFICULTIES FACED IN THE SHELTERS (HERE THERE IS A VIDEO VERSION OF THE REPORTAGE). EVEN SO, THERE IS A LARGE QUOTA OF PEOPLE USING THE PUBLIC SERVICES OF REFUGE FOR THE STREET POPULATION, IN BRAZIL AND IN GERMANY.
JORGE HAD A CELL PHONE, FOUND IN THE GARBAGE, WHICH HE USED TO PLAY ELECTRONIC GAMES . IT WAS STOLEN FROM HIM. NOW, HE ONLY PRESSES THE KEYS OF THIS REMOTE CONTROL, AS A WAY OF SIMULATING A GAME.
JORGE NEEDED TO MAKE A HOLE IN THE SPRAY CAN, IN ORDER TO GET THE SHAVING CREAM OUT. THE GAS HAD RUN OUT.
ACCORDING TO GRAZZIOLA, IT IS NECESSARY TO LOOK AT WHICH SHELTERS ARE AVOIDED BY THE HOMELESS, BECAUSE THE RECEPTION AND CONDITIONS ARE DIFFERENT IN EACH OF THEM. SOME STREET RESIDENTS DO NOT RETURN TO A SHELTER BECAUSE THEY WERE MISTREATED THERE. OTHER SHELTERS HAVE RULES THAT DISCOURAGE A GREAT PART OF THIS POPULATION, LIKE A BAN ON ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES OR DRUGS (DIFFICULT FOR THOSE WITH ADDICTIONS), THE CONTROL OF ENTRY AND EXIT TIMES (IT’S MANDATORY TO LEAVE THE SHELTER IN THE MORNING) AND THE RULE AGAINST STORING BELONGINGS THERE (ESPECIALLY HARD FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO WALK LONG DISTANCES TO REACH THE SHELTER). THE SAME RULES EXIST IN THE ‘CONVIVENCE HOUSES’, PLACES CREATED TO OFFER STREET RESIDENTS A PLACE TO STAY DURING THE DAY.
THIS IS A TYPICAL DRINK OF SOUTH BRAZIL, ARGENTINA AND URUGUAY. IT IS CALLED ‘CHIMARRÃO’ AND TASTES LIKE WARM TEA.
DURING SEVERAL NIGHTS IN THE MONTH OF JULY 2012, THE TEMPERATURE IN PORTO ALEGRE HOVERED AROUND 0 ºC.
RECENTLY, A NEW EFFORT STARTED AT GOVERNMENT LEVELS, IN ORDER TO LISTEN TO THIS PART OF THE POPULATION BETTER. ON DECEMBER 23RD 2009, A DECREE WAS PUBLISHED, ESTABLISHING THE NATIONAL POLICY FOR THE STREET POPULATION AND CREATING A COMMITTEE TO TAKE ACTION. THE DECREE WAS SIGNED BY MINISTERS, BY LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA (BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT AT THE TIME) AND BY DILMA ROUSSEFF (THE CURRENT PRESIDENT).
MANY OF THESE ACTIONS ARE STILL ONLY ON PAPER – THIS IS A CONCERN RAISED BY MEMBERS OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. BUT THIS IMPORTANT STEP WAS TAKEN AND PROMISES TO BRING RESULTS. IN PORTO ALEGRE, THE CITY HALL CREATED A MUNICIPAL PLAN TO FACE THE STREET SITUATION. MEANWHILE, THESE SAME SOCIAL MOVEMENTS KEEP CLAIMING THEIR RIGHTS, REPORTING MISTREATMENTS AGAINST STREET RESIDENTS AND ORGANIZING EVENTS FOR DISCUSSION AND CREATION OF PUBLIC POLICIES FOR THIS GROUP.
THIS DECREE IS CONSIDERED A LANDMARK BECAUSE IT THE FIRST POLITICAL RESPONSE AT A NATIONAL LEVEL, TO A PROBLEM THAT SO FAR WAS ONLY TAKEN SERIOUSLY BY SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS.
THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT, IF PROBLEMS LIKE THESE HAPPEN TO AN INDIVIDUAL OR A FAMILY WITH A BETTER PSYCHOLOGICAL (OR, AT LEAST, FINANCIAL) STRUCTURE, THE SAME PROBLEM CAN BE TREATED - OR HIDDEN - BEHIND FOUR WALLS.
ONE OF THESE THREE ANSWERS WAS GIVEN BY 71.3 % OF THE STREET RESIDENTS.
IF YOU DISCOVER THE DIVERSITY OF PEOPLE LIVING ON THE STREETS, YOU MAY SURPRISE YOURSELF. IT WON’T BE EASY TO JUDGE THEM ANYMORE. PERHAPS THAT'S WHY MANY OF US CHOOSE TO IGNORE THIS GROUP; ONCE WE BEGIN TO NOTICE, WE BEGIN TO CARE.
THE RESEARCH QUOTED IN THE BEGINNING OF THIS COMIC REPORT BRINGS DATA, WHICH CAN PROMOTE SOME REFLECTION. WHEN ASKED ABOUT THE REASONS THAT DROVE THEM TO LIVE ON THE STREETS, PEOPLE GAVE THREE MAIN ANSWERS: 1) 35.5 % – PROBLEMS WITH ALCOHOL AND/OR ILLICIT DRUGS 2) 29.8 % – UNEMPLOYMENT 3) 29.1 % DISAGREEMENTS WITH RELATIVES.
IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, YOU REALIZE THAT THESE THREE PROBLEMS CAN HAPPEN TO ANYBODY. TO ME, TO YOU INCLUDED – LIKE IT HAPPENED TO THEM. WE CAN’T ASSURE THAT WE WILL BE ALWAYS FREE FROM THESE PROBLEMS, BECAUSE THEY DEPEND ON CERTAIN CONDITIONS (SOCIAL, FAMILY, HISTORICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, CHEMICAL, ETC.), WHICH ARE MANY TIMES INDEPENDENT OF OUR OWN WILL. BESIDES, THESE SITUATIONS ARE DESTABILIZING, SO WE CAN’T KNOW HOW EXACTLY WE WILL REACT TO A CRISIS LIKE THIS. THAT IS WHY THE SOCIAL WORKERS PREFER TO USE THE EXPRESSION “PERSON IN STREET SITUATION” INSTEAD OF “HOMELESS” OR “STREET RESIDENT,” BECAUSE FOR MANY IT IS ONLY A TRANSITORY SITUATION.
THE IDEA OF INTERVIEWING JORGE CAME UP IN THE BEGINNING OF 2012. AT THE TIME, WE DIDN’T KNOW HIS NAME, ONLY THAT HE LIVED ON TWO BLOCKS OF FRANCISCO FERRER STREET. DURING THE FIRST FEW MONTHS, WE USED TO CHANGE OUR DAILY ITINERARY IN ORDER TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY OF WATCHING HIM FROM A DISTANCE. FINALLY, ON JULY 16TH, A MONDAY AFTERNOON, WE TALKED TO HIM FOR THE FIRST TIME. FROM THE START, JORGE LET US KNOW IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS THAT HE TELLS NOBODY HIS LIFE STORY. WE AGREED THEN THAT WE WOULD JUST FOLLOW HIS ROUTINE. DURING THE INTERVIEWS, WE DISCOVERED SOME SMALL FLASHES ABOUT HIS PAST: THAT HE LIVED AT AN ORPHANAGE AND THAT HE USED TO LIVE IN ANOTHER REGION OF THE CITY. WE ALSO FOUND OUT SOME INFORMATION ABOUT HIS PERSONAL LIKES, HIS POLITICAL OPINIONS AND HIS RELIGION AND BELIEFS, BUT WE DID NOT WANT TO INVADE THE BOUNDARIES SET SINCE THE BEGINNING, AS A MATTER OF RESPECT. JORGE SPENDS THE EVENINGS AND NIGHTS UNDER A PORCH IN A BUILDING WHERE THERE IS A BANK ON THE GROUND FLOOR. HE LEAVES THE PLACE QUICKLY IN THE MORNING, BEFORE BUSINESS HOURS, AND SPENDS ALL DAY IN ANOTHER PART OF THE STREET IN FRONT OF AN ABANDONED HOUSE. DEPENDING ON HIS MOOD, HE EVENTUALLY PUSHES HIS CART IN OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS OF THE CITY OF PORTO ALEGRE, SOMETIMES WALKING VERY LONG DISTANCES. AT 6 PM, WHEN THE BANK CLOSES, HE STARTS TO PUSH HIS CART BACK TOWARDS THE PLACE WHERE HE SLEEPS, KNOWING THAT NOW HE WILL NOT DISTURB ANYBODY. JORGE DOES NOT WORK – HE SURVIVES FROM SILENT DONATIONS. ONE EVENING, WE WITNESSED THE MOMENT WHEN A MAN BROUGHT HIM A PLASTIC BAG WITH SPAGHETTI INSIDE. THIS MAN GAVE HIM THE BAG WITHOUT SAYING A WORD, AND LEFT – ONLY A SHORT EXCHANGE OF LOOKS AND NOTHING ELSE. WE ASKED JORGE IF IT ALWAYS HAPPENS THE SAME WAY AND HE CONFIRMED. WE ASKED THEN WHEN THE SILENT DONATIONS BEGAN, AND HE TOLD US THAT IT WAS SUDDEN: ONE DAY, THIS MAN ARRIVED WITH FOOD, SAYING NOTHING. IT HAS BEEN THIS WAY EVER SINCE. IT WORKS THE SAME WAY WITH OTHER PEOPLE. JORGE SELDOM SPEAKS WITH ANYONE. HE USUALLY SPENDS HIS ENTIRE DAY AND NIGHT IN SILENCE. JORGE LIVES ALONE AND DOESN'T TAKE PART IN ANY KIND OF SOCIAL ACTIVITY. HE IS PROUD OF BEING INDEPENDENT, BUT THERE ARE MOMENTS WHEN HE NEEDS HELP AND DOES NOT FIND IT. LAST JUNE, HE SAYS A COP CONFISCATED HIS CART AND TOOK AWAY EVERYTHING HE OWNED. THE CART THAT APPEARS IN THIS COMIC REPORT IS NEW AND MUCH SMALLER THAN THE FORMER. ALL THE OBJECTS THAT APPEAR IN THIS COMIC REPORT, WERE RESCUED FROM THE GARBAGE BY JORGE. The authorsPorto Alegre, August 2012.