In January 2021 two families lost their homes and all their belongings and documents in a fire caused by an electrical short circuit. Due to the difficulty of accessing the place, the firefighters did not have the time to put out the fire. The families live in extreme poverty in a region on the outskirts of Curitiba. There is no basic sanitation, no adequate electricity network and no safe drinking water. The village does not have policies or a process that allows people express their needs so that their rights as citizens might be respected.
The Daughters of Charity of the Province of Curitiba, attentive to the situation, mobilized to support these families, collaborating with the Parish Priest of the Church of St. Vincent de Paul (Congregation of the Mission) of Curitiba, the Social Action Committee of the Parish of Our Lady of Mercy (Capuchin Friars), the Vincentian Marian Youth and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Together, they conducted campaigns of solidarity to raise money for the reconstruction of the houses. The project was preceded by visits to the families in order to have first-hand knowledge of the realities and confirm the need for emergency aid. They were very vulnerable and exposed to the weather, having no place to live in; they had to ask for shelter from their neighbors who are also living in poverty.
Prefabricated wooden houses were built and given to the families by representatives of the members of the branches of the Vincentian Family involved in the project. In blessing the houses and the families, we praise God for the generosity of all those who helped to alleviate their suffering. We rejoiced and praised God as we saw the joy and gratitude on the faces the beneficiaries. One grateful resident expressed the joy: “Thank you, Sisters, thank you! You are very good! You have made me a beautiful house and I am happy; God bless you! I cannot thank you enough! You are wonderful people! May God reward you and all those who helped us. Thank you very much!”
Even before we finished the construction project of the two houses, we were surprised by the news that, on Christmas eve 2020, 311 families among them 150 children living in the Nova Guaporé Occupation, in the Industrial City of Curitiba (CIC), received a judicial order of eviction as a result of a repossession suit; they were occupying private property. These are families who live on underemployment support and have had their right to housing violated and disrespected once again. For lack of a public housing policy in the municipality, they had no other alternative but to occupy idle lands or even, in many cases, areas of environmental preservation on river banks. Unfortunately, this is the reality in the metropolis and large urban centres and these people run the risk of being evicted at any time, often violently and without warning.
In the case of Ocupação Guaporé, many people were not in their homes (shacks) at the time of the occurrence; they had no time to remove furniture, clothes, documents, utensils, etc. which were devastated by the fire, set by heartless people. The desperation of not having anywhere to go translates into revolt and violence.
Curitiba’s climatic situation did not help in any way: rain and cold. Forced eviction brings suffering and deprivation and the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) hangs over their heads. As members of families are crowded in a shack or in canvas houses, one of the main concerns is the risk of COVID infection. Through visits and basic hygiene guidelines, the families were instructed on how to keep social distance and taught precautionary health care measures.
In addition to food, personal hygiene items and guidance, the Daughters of Charity turned their attention to 14 Haitian families in the Occupation site, who, in addition to a language barrier, were also unemployed and live in extreme poverty, having no relatives or acquaintances to help them. These families received wooden kits for the construction of their houses in order to meet the minimum conditions of dignity by providing shelter and to contain the risk of contracting COVID-19. The visits continue to be made by the Sisters working in the Social Assistance Program, with the aim of encouraging these families to help themselves and claim their human rights.