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People Taking Charge: Homeless Build Community

YES! Magazine graphic: People Taking Charge

The Prestes Maia building in downtown São Paulo, abandoned for 12 years, had become a haven for drugs and prostitution. Then, in 2002, more than 400 homeless families, in cooperation with a local group called the Downtown Homeless Movement, occupied the 22-story building. Conditions were crowded and difficult—the building lacks electricity and running water—but residents established a free library, cinema, and educational and social activities.

The Brazilian Constitution recognizes the right to housing and states that all property must serve a “social function.” But in São Paulo, where slums and homelessness are common, an estimated 400,000 housing units are unused. The Downtown Homeless Movement, which has reclaimed more than 30 buildings in São Paulo, is just one of many groups reclaiming abandoned buildings across Brazil. At Prestes Maia, residents have fought eviction with protests, road blockades, and legal battles. After years of struggle, they have won either new housing or assistance from the government.

Child reading in Prestes Maia building in downtown São Paulo. Photo by Tatiana Cardeal. tatianacardeal.blogspot.com
Child reading in Prestes Maia building in downtown São Paulo.
Photo by Tatiana Cardeal. tatianacardeal.blogspot.com

Prestes Maia building in downtown São Paulo. Photo by Tatiana Cardeal. tatianacardeal.blogspot.com
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Prestes Maia building in downtown São Paulo.
Photo by Tatiana Cardeal. tatianacardeal.blogspot.com
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People Taking Charge :: 4 of 7
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South Bronx Community Concert. Photo by Eroc of the Foundation Movement
The rooftop garden at Start Now Farm, Bremerton, Washington. Photo by Doug Pibel
A San Francisco parking lot transformed into a public park. Photo by Lawrence Cuevas
Child reading in Prestes Maia building in downtown São Paulo. Photo by Tatiana Cardeal. tatianacardeal.blogspot.com
Food Not Bombs in Orlando.
Orchard in San José de Apartadó. Photo by Aileen Nowlan
Free Art
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Hip Hop: Voice of the Voiceless spacer Grow Food on Your Roof spacer PARK(ing) For a Day spacer Homeless Build Community spacer Sharing Food, Breaking the Law spacer Colombia Peace Village spacer Free Art, No Really Free
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