From the Famvin Homeless Alliance.
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“The 13 Houses project is much more than the provision of a house; it is giving someone a space in which they can feel like a child of God, a human being and a citizen who has the right to a place to call home.”
M.F.S, 57 years old, widow, 3rd grade education. She lives in the city of Almirante Tamandaré in the state of Paraná, and works collecting recyclable materials and clearing land.
M. began to be supported by the Daughters of Charity in the Tereza Araújo Community two years ago, first being provided with food and someone to listen to her. During our first visit to her home we quickly realized she needed greater help, as the house wasn’t in a condition fit for anyone to live there.
M. lived in a small 5x7m² shack in an informal settlement built over marshland. She constructed the house herself, using an existing brick wall that was on the land and pieces of plywood and other salvaged material (some old tiles provided her with a roof). It was a very fragile structure and had to be tied to a tree because whenever it rained heavily the small river that runs by the house overflowed, flooding everything. Thus, there was the risk that her house would be swept away by the current. A wet and humid place, it was always surrounded by animals, frogs, mice and insects. It didn’t have a bathroom and wasn’t connected to the sewage system; nor did it have running water, so M got her water from a nearby river. The house was illegally hooked up to to the mains, as is commonplace in informal settlements like this in Brazil.
Inside there was one cupboard where she kept clothes and another where she kept food. There was also a chair, a television, a radio, a sofa and a raised wooden bed frame (which she built) and a mattress. To cook she used a makeshift oven made from an old paint can and piled up bricks, and she had a metal grill and bucket outside for washing dishes.
Financially, M. utilized various means of survival, but we saw that people are exploiting her. She told us that she was often called upon to do weeding work and at the end of the day she only received a plate of food or a small part of the agreed upon remuneration. She is registered for the Bolsa Família (a family benefits program) and receives a monthly [payment of R$ 99 (just under $20 USD). She often comes to us asking for food and money (she also receives some help from people close to her).
Faced with these circumstances, we can say that her living conditions were sub-human. M is a simple and charismatic person who has suffered greatly. She has strong willpower and desires to improve her life, but has limited education often holds her back. We have advised her several times about her rights, and even intervened in a lawsuit that she initiated against the state government (she demanded the payment of her husband’s pension). Her dream was to secure decent housing because prior to her husband’s death she had a comfortable home. It was after that tragedy that she lost everything, and found herself in this desperate situation.
With the help of many people, families and organizations we have now been able to build a dignified house for M. In partnership with the Daughters of Charity, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Rio Branco do Sul, Saint Vincent de Paul Parish and Our Lady of Mercy Parish, the Vincentian Marian Youth and others, we have given M. the keys to her new home. The 13 Houses project is much more than the provision of a house; it is giving someone a space in which they can feel like a child of God, a human being and a citizen who has the right to a place to call home.
M. is very grateful for all that she has received. She now continues her life with more joy, hope and confidence that she is not alone, in the knowledge that there are good people in the world capable of sharing and loving others.
Sister Cleonice Regina Claudino, DC.
Curitiba/Paraná – Brazil