Homeless people and social movement activists staged a demonstration in downtown São Paulo on Thursday (Jun. 16) to remember the six homeless people who died probably due to cold weather this month. Holding crosses and banners, they deplored the deaths and demanded housing and the right to citizenship.
Dino José, a 59-year-old bricklayer who has been homeless for 16 years, said the cold weather has been “harsh” in recent days. “I get by my own way. Everyone who lives in the street does. So what do I do? I look for blankets and donations. We are here fighting for our rights. I'm a street man all right. But I have a right to housing and this is in the Constitution. I fight for these people and I love them,” he said crying.
Júlio Lancellotti, a Catholic priest in a church ministry that takes care of street populations, criticized the mayor for removing street people. “What they are failing to do is have a frank, direct talk with the street people themselves rather than their representatives. The Metropolitan Guard supports these actions, known as 'urban caretaking', that take away all the homeless people have. They take away documents, medication. I have witnessed it myself,” the priest said. “Taking away a street dweller's blanket is shameful, unethical, immoral, that's sheer torture,” he went on.
About reports that Guard officers were taking away mattresses and other belongings of the homeless people, Mayor Fernando Haddad, said the case is being investigated and that he is going to issue a decree on Saturday outlining guidelines to be adopted by municipal authorities in their approach to street dwellers.
“The mayor denies it? Well he shouldn't, that's exactly what they are doing. I see this going on every day. They take away mattresses, blankets, cardboard boxes. They haven't taken any of mine. But they're taking it away from everyone,” said Dino José. For Lancellotti, “It should be very clear that it's not the Metropolitan Guard's role to patrol the homeless. The social welfare and health workers are the ones who should approach them and establish connections,” he said.
According to the priest, homeless people die in other periods than the cold season as well—so far this year, there has been one death a day. “I've just talked to the director [of a morgue] and he made it clear that hypothermia is not a pathology. People have other underlying conditions. And hypothermia increases heart attack occurrences by 30%. Now just picture that in a population that's chilling [in the street]! So how can you say the cold weather has no effects on such cold nights? The cold was a catalyst for people to have hypothermia,” he said.
For Lancellotti, avoiding the deaths of street populations would require ongoing health assistance. “Street dwellers are more vulnerable to tuberculosis, pneumonia, skin and dental problems and many diseases that worsen through street exposure. Street health services should be very active, as they are.”
Translated by Mayra Borges
Fonte: Agência Brasil.