I’ve written a bit about the plight of the homeless here in Brazil, but I truly haven’t done justice to the issue. When I say homeless, I mean people with no place to live, and no safety net to catch them. There are no social services here to pick up those tossed aside by life.
I know the poverty here is not the worst in the world, but it’s heart-rending, nevertheless.
I’ve shown photos of people who built shelter in trees on the median of the main road, Vinte e Cinco de Maio.
And as we drive through the city, I see tents set up on sidewalks,
and see sheltering walls erected along stanchions underneath overpasses, and belongings wedged under roadways, where people take shelter at night.
The homeless are found in all areas of the city.
Returning from Guarulhos Airport recently, I saw something that absolutely stunned me. People are living in the sewage outflows along the Tiete River, or on the steps built into the concrete banks of the river. These photos don’t do justice to reality. When I finally realized what I was seeing and began taking pictures, we had moved away from the edge of the river, and I could only grab shots of the outflow holes and stairs. But earlier, I had seen plastic tents erected over the stairs, and piles of belongings in the holes.
This is terrible in so many ways. First, when it rains, the city’s sewage does indeed come through these pipes, and they are never washed clean. Second, if they are living in these pipes, they are breathing in the effluence of the pipes as well as of the river, which has huge islands of trash floating in them and a miasma of filth above the water. The stench must be horrific.
Third, if they live there, they must cross the largest thoroughfare in the city to reach food and clean water, a death-wish journey for any human except in the wee hours of the night.
Finally, notice what they see any time they look up. Huge new skyscrapers reaching up, images of a life they likely can’t even imagine.
I simply don’t know what to think about this. How can such poverty exist in a city where the rich fly in helicopters and host thousand-dollar birthday parties for their children, and where even the average poor have televisions and cell phones? What strength do they have that keeps them going? God bless them.