Fri | Sep 25, 2020

3,000 homeless to leave areas seized in Brasilia

Published:Thursday | February 12, 2015 | 9:18 AM
Amanda Santana, 39, second from right, and her daughters look out from their makeshift tent at a Homeless Workers Movement squatters camp in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil.


The most fortunate of them have tents. The rest use black-and-blue plastic tarps draped over bamboo trunks to keep the brutal tropical sun from melting them at midday.

About 3,000 people from Brazil's Homeless Workers Movement, which invades open lands and buildings in cities across the continent-sized nation, pitched their shelters a few days ago on six large tracts in and around the capital of Brasilia.

"I came to Brasilia over 20 years ago and I've not been able to find housing," said Amanda Santana, a 39-year-old mother of three girls in one of the camps. "I work as a maid and, on what I earn, I can't pay rent. ... My only hope is to receive government housing."

On Wednesday, leaders of the homeless group and government officials came to an agreement that might make Santana's dream come true. Authorities promised to set aside land for low-income housing for those in the camps, in return for them leaving the land they have occupied since Saturday.

Until that happens, the reluctant nomads of the homeless movement in Brasilia go about their days in as normal a fashion as possible.

Women use branches of palm trees as makeshift brooms to keep camp grounds clean. They serve their families dinners of rice, vegetables and scraps of chicken meat, all piled into recycled margarine tubs. Children on the South American summer school break fly kites, roughhouse in their tents, and, on rainy nights, gather with adults around fires to chat.