On Tuesday July 29th, Mayor José Fortunati signed an agreement that the city of Porto Alegre will adhere to the National Policy on Homeless Populations. The signing was attended by the Minister on Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic, Ideli Salvatti. The National Policy works to advance the proposed alternatives of professionalization of the homeless, from the National Program for Access to Technical and Employment (Pronatec), to initiatives for social and economic inclusion of this population through economic enterprises funded by the Ministry of Labor.
"This act formalizes a collaboration that is already underway, sponsored by the city of Porto Alegre in partnership with the federal government," said Salvatti. According to the minister, the policy will be the first initiative to employ the homeless population, which should begin in the second half of this year. The announcement of the Ministry of Labor provides $2.5 million to organizations working with people living on the streets. Salvatti also noted that these funds may be used for the development of cooperatives in order to offer alternative work for the homeless.
To the minister, the state capital is considering policies aimed at helping the homeless population, especially with regard to lowering the rates of violence. She mentions that in Brazil during the period between 2011 and 2014, 839 homicides were recorded for people living on the streets, three of them in Porto Alegre, an index well below the average of other state capitals. "This can only happen with policies that welcome and help these people, and work together with them," she says. According to her, some of the common characteristics of the homeless population are that they are male, black and often work in the informal economy.
Fortunati said that since 2011, the Capital has supported the Municipal Plan to Combat the Street, with the goal of promoting the quality of life and reducing social risks for this population. Now that the Mayor has formally signed the city’s adherence to the policy, services for special populations should improve dramatically. He also pointed out that the city is a pioneer in the creation of the Office of Street Initiatives in conjunction with the Ministry of Health "We pioneered the deployment of the first clinics on the streets. Fortunately, the results are positive," she emphasizes.
She also claims that the present municipal administration invested £6.5 million in physical spaces to host and shelter the homeless population. In addition, reports that from 2005 to 2014, signal that investment in social assistance rose from £55 million to £150 million.
Porto Alegre is the sixth capital to join the national policy to combat homelessness. Marcelo Soares, the President of the Foundation for Social Welfare and Citizenship (FASC), says that the presence of the federal government strengthens the organization's ability to create change. He recalls that Porto Alegre is the sixth city in the country to join the National Policy for Homeless Populations.
In Porto Alegre, according to the last census, 1,347 people live under various types of homeless circumstances. According to Soares, 61% of these people come from rural areas, 90% occupy the central city and the Menino Deus neighborhood and 82% are men. Moreover, Soares states that 3% have completed their education.
According to him, there are currently 1,550 vacancies in different shelters for the homeless population. During the day, FASC has two “Pop” centers - Specialized Reference Centers for People on the Street, offering room service, friendliness, cleanliness and workshops. "In the first half of next year, we will open the third pop center," says Soares.
In the evening there are rooms made available in three hostels, serving from 7 pm to 7 am. To follow up on cases, there are two shelters for adult populations, a shelter for families, and Covenant with the Casa Lilás for assisting women that are victims of violence.
What sort of policies does your city have to help the homeless? Are there homeless shelter and services available in your community?
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
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