It’s nighttime on the Rua do Imperador, one of the most sought after areas by homeless people in downtown Recife. A man with a foreign accent is curious about newspaper Diario de Pernambuco’s presence. He approaches. Accepting to be interviewed, he just doesn’t want to be identified. We agree to call him Maurice, age 46. The story of this Italian could be that of anyone. There’s passion, abandonment, drug abuse, jail and street life. That’s why it catches one’s eye. Mauritius is the so-called urban migrant. People who’ve left their place of origin for various reasons and went to live on Recife’s streets, along with the unexpected.
About nine urban migrants, per month, go through the Specialized Reference Center for the Homeless Population (Centro POP) in Boa Vista. The space, put there by Recife’s City Hall, is dedicated to homeless people but does not offer overnight accommodation. According to management, these street migrants have stories of heartbreak, are seeking employment, have some involvement in crimes or are characterized as social tourists, as they have the habit of traveling to get to know new places even without a place to live upon arriving.
Maurice arrived in Brazil in 2007 after becoming involved with a Brazilian in Italy. “I came to Carpina to meet her family. The marriage ended, I got into crack and lost everything. I was arrested because the police found me with drugs,” he recounts. After four years serving time, Mauritius was released to the bitterness of addiction and street life.
The invisibility of homeless migrants is striking, as well as that of the entire homeless population. The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) does not calculate how many people live in these conditions. A survey of Recife, still unfinished, registered 775 individuals on the streets of Recife. Most are men of working age. More than half are in the area made up of the downtown neighborhoods. Their profiles are many, including people with higher education and foreigners.
The National Survey on the Homeless Population, made in 2008 by the Ministry of Social Development and the Fight against Hunger, is the most recent document on the subject. According to the survey, the main reasons for these people being on the streets are problems related to alcohol / drugs (35.5%), unemployment (29.8%) and family differences (29.1%).
The Pernambucano Vicente José da Silva, age 60, is a story that’s different from those who inhabit the streets of the capital. He says he’s got a home, wife and seven children in Rio de Janeiro, but lives in the Integrated Passenger Terminal (IPT), in Curado. The uncomfortable stay has lasted three years. He left the Southeast, where he lived for many years, to return to Pernambuco because he needed to get a new birth certificate with the Registry of Timbaúba after all his documents were stolen. “I found that the notary had burned down and so they said I wasn’t born in the city. I tried a lawyer, who advised me to go to the notary personally,” he recalls. The document was handed over to Vicente in July but he now no longer wants to go back to Rio, which he considers to be violent. He’s making plans to bring his wife to Recife, once he sets up a business with the money obtained as a “flanelinha” (illegal parking attendant).
The scaffold assembler Sergio Eliel Martiniano, age 41, was born in Bahia. After high school, he came to Recife in search of a job at the Suape port. It’s been two years and Sergio did not get the job. Now it’s the bitter street life. His face is more serious because of the crack addiction. “I slept in a BRT station downtown. But now I’m in the Diario Square,” laments Sergio, who makes his living as flanelinha.
“Paulista”, 52, graduated in business administration from USP in 1985. He worked for 16 years at the Bank of Brazil, including in Recife. Born in São Paulo, he took to the streets in 2002 because of cocaine and alcohol, he says. A government study reveals that stories like Paulista’s are rare. Only 0.7% of respondents have a university degree. Today, he sleeps on the Rua do Imperador. “I was a student of Márcio Thomaz Bastos, and Ariano Suassuna, but I made a lot of mistakes. Nobody‘s on the street for no reason. I spent more than I earned. I ended up earning 20 minimum wages at the Bank of Brazil. I used a lot of coke and I had an apartment in Domingos Ferreira, but before coming here, I lived in São Paulo. My ex-wife is a doctor from Minas Gerias. We lived on Avenida Paulista, in a housing development, from the 50s, with over a thousand apartments. It was when I did a public service exam to work at the bank. I worked eight years in Garanhuns and then on Dantas Barreto. One day, I left the job. I was at the pinnacle of alcohol dependence and I was in debt. The bank started to bother me. There were overdrafts, overdrawn cards. I left everything and went back to Sao Paulo where I had cocaine-related problems. I decided to return to Recife and while I don’t use drugs anymore, I drink alcohol every day. I can not get off the street. I got used to it. I sell vehicle accessories. My family does not know where I am. I have a daughter who studied journalism at Mackenzie in São Paulo. I thought I was disturbing them. I had problems with drugs and my ex-wife, with bingo. Financially it was a disaster. The living on the street is difficult. Others bother me when I read newspaper because they think I want to humiliate them. But I have friends on the street.“
Antonio Ferreira da Silva, 64, has been on the streets for 14 years. During this period he married a homeless woman, picked up cans and bought a cart to sell candy, popcorn, and cigarettes. “With that you can’t rent a house. A shack in the slum is R$150, so I prefer the street,” he complained, showing the place where he sleeps, the sidewalk of the Gabinete Português de Leitura, on Imperador. “I could no longer get work. After age 50, it was more difficult. I had a shack in Ibura but I got separated and spent it all. I was a womanizer,” he recalls. In all, 48.4% of respondents are on the streets for more than two years.
On the waterfront of Boa Viagem, Severino Neri da Silva, whose age he does not know, spends his days lying on a boardwalk bench. The district is the second most sought after by the Recife homeless after downtown, as it also offers more attractions to those who have nothing, leisure spaces and frequent tourists. With mental problems, Severino says he has no family and doesn’t know how long he’s been living on the streets. There are reports that Severino lived on coconut–produced crafts, but he denies this and becomes nervous when asked about it. – Source (PT, more)