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Interview with Jordão Oliveira


Jordão Oliveira: I had a house. The best house in Porto Brandão, it was mine... I built it myself. But today, I live on the streets. See what life is like?


Interview with Diamantino Silva


Diamantino Silva: I have never known what it was like to be kissed by a mother, or a father, or anybody else. I was born poor and I will die poor.


Interview with José Pereira:


José Pereira: Did I ever think I would sleep on the streets? The first night I spent on the streets, I stood up for 5 hours.


Interview with Maria de Lurdes


Maria de Lurdes: Last night I slept over there in "Rua do Alecrim". I spent the whole night in a doorway.


Interview with Marco Paulo


Marco Paulo: Sometimes I think about what I used to be, about the opportunities I had, that I didn't take advantage of. Now, I want an opportunity, but nothing happens.


Interview with Abilio França:


Abilio França: We fall into this and it's difficult to get out. We just slide in deeper and deeper.


Interview with Pedro


Pedro: "It's bad, it's depressing...because people only ever look at you out of the corner of their eye"


Interview with Francisco Santos


Francisco Santos: Try to sleep here with us so that you see for yourself what our suffering is like. How it feels to be cold... to be hungry...to be miserable. Try living like the homeless.








Francisco Santos is one of the oldest homeless people in Lisbon. He has already lost count of how many years he's been living the streets. He was brought up at a time when begging and sleeping rough were forbidden, a   time when beggars and tramps were treated in much the same way as those who disagreed with the Portuguese government.



Interview with Francisco Santos


F.S: I was sent to Mitra. I was there for 9 years and during that time I suffered like hell. I mean...I worked during the day and went to school during the evenings. It was slavery.




Int: When did you start living on the streets?

F.S: When did I start living on the streets? On the 25th of April I came to the streets. I was embarrassed to be dependent on charity, but I started thinking, how am I going to live, I haven't got a pension, I haven't got any benefits...I have to do it. And so I started this life. I held out my hand to charity.




I used to take off my shoes, and take off my socks




I crossed my legs; and I sat in this position and I begged: give me something, I'm unable to work...and that's how I was surviving



Francisco Santos still survives this way. As a child he suffered from polio and meningitis. Now, he receives disability benefit but that's still not enough to keep him off the streets.




Economically, Portugal lies in the middle of the European tables; the UK, by comparison, makes it into the top ten. But in Lisbon, and most big cities in Europe, the numbers of those sleeping rough are rising - a likely indication that a new tide of homelessness is sweeping across Europe.




It's difficult to pinpoint exactly how many there are because they rarely stay long in one place. But  it‘s estimated that in Lisbon there are currently over two thousand homeless people.



Interview with Pedro Bonfigli


Interviewer: How many people sleep here with you?

Pedro Bonfigli: Twenty. Twenty people.

Int: Does every person have a different problem or do they all have roughly the same problem?

PB: No. Each person has a different problem. Each one has had a good life, but has let themselves sink to this point.


Image of three people

Interview with Abilio Franca


Inter: And the neighbours?

Abilio Franca: We get on well with the neighbours. They say hello, they help us when they can.

INT: Do they have any demands regarding this area?





AF: Yes, they do. They demand cleanliness of this area, tidiness and peace. They want to rest, they work. It's their right, and we are like intruders, we're here but we don't belong here. So, they have their demands and I think they're right to demand tidiness, and peace and quiet.   We're like trespassers here, we're here but we don't belong here.






INT: How did you end up on the streets?

AF: Me? It happened after my parents' death. I was in jail for about 10 years, and I was still in jail when they died and then, when I came out, I felt a bit...unprotected, helpless without them.

Int: You had lost them?

AF: I had lost them. I ended up here and here I am. God knows when I'll leave.


Interview with Pedro Bonfigli


PB: It's been three and a half months now. Ever since I left prison.

INT: Were you on the streets before?

PB: I'd been on the streets before.

INT: How long for?




PB: For four years. Four years on the streets.

INT: And how did it happen the first time?

PB: I separated from my wife, rented a room, then stopped working. The money was just enough to pay for the room. I met some friends, let myself be dragged into this kind of life...There's always money because we beg at the traffic lights, we beg here and we beg there and that's it! I let myself slip into this kind of life and the years went by. Then I became addicted to drugs. Some friends and I, we started stealing, stealing until I was arrested.


Person sleeping in pink and white blanket

Former prisoners and drug addicts. These men form the new band of outsiders.



Men crossing street

Over the last few years, drug use has become one of the main causes of people living on the streets.



Interview with Joaquim Lamelas


Joaquim Lamelas: It is horrible. For someone who wasn't used to this standard of living...


face of bearded man


I didn't have many luxuries, but I had a stable life. I was a Telecommunications Engineer, and my wife also worked. I had a relatively good salary, quite a good life.


Man going into a card box


Now, it's been many months since I last slept on freshly washed sheets. I sleep in a cardboard box...I am cold. I spend hours hoping that someone will bring some food. It's sad.

INT: How long have you been unemployed?




JL: About seven, eight months. I got to the point where I could no longer feed my addiction because I spent everything I earned... Increasingly, I started taking things from home, things that it took me ten years to buy... I started taking things to pay for my addiction. It got to the point where I didn't earn enough to pay for it and I couldn't even work any more.



Image of men and reporter at a table


INT: Where do you spend your days?

JL: At Casal Ventoso or Curraleira

INT: Why don't you sleep near Casal Ventoso or Curraleira?




Close-up of man


JL: Because...I think it's too degrading. Being there during the day is different. To sleep there would be very degrading. Today, a friend of mine died over there. Ventura, he died at Curraleira.


Image of man and reporter at a table


I prefer to come and sleep here in the Mouraria or in Rossio. It's different. At least we give a different impression. We're poor, we're mistreated, people keep away from us but it's still different to sleep in a place, it's still different to sleep in a place like this.


Image of a shopping centre

At Martin Moniz, the arcades of the Mouraria shopping centre is usually the place chosen to spend the night. And every night it seems that there is one more arrival.



Close up of man with dreadlocks singing rap song.


Dom Ferry Clelland: "The streets of Lisbon seem to be full.

In a corner you meet a drug addict

in another corner you meet a Homeless person

In another corner you meet a beggar.

Who's fault is it? The fault is not mine,

the fault is the government that doesn't give a shit

about the way we live.

The government is to blame"


Images of men in the street

In the Mouraria, everyone knows Dom Ferry Clelland's rap lyrics.



Image of cardboard box, men and bright orange and pink blanket

And everyone knows where Antonio Santos and Dona Branca construct and demolish their cardboard home each day. It's a tradition that started about seven or eight years ago. Their wedding also took place in the street.



Interview with Antonio Santos


Antonio Santos: I met Dona Branca under that arcade over there...she came to us and she asked to stay there, asked that no-one would hurt her and that was that. She stayed. The next day, what did she think? I think she thought she should hold on to me and here she is.





INT: And you liked that?

AS: Well, I am the kind of person that cannot hurt anyone. She held on to me and here she is.

INT: And how do you live here amongst so many people?


Image of people by the cardboard boxes


AS: Amongst all this people we live our life. We cook here, and we eat, just the two of us. That's how we live.

INT: Do you receive any benefits?

AS: Thirty thousand escudos a month (£100)

INT: Each?

AS: Yes.

INT: And with that couldn't you find somewhere else to sleep?

AS: No. It's only just enough to feed us.


Image of person walking

Retired people and old aged pensioners...they are in a minority, but there is a startling number of them. They are  living evidence that when the support systems fail, for many the only solution is to retreat to the streets.



Interview with Joaquim Silva


Joaquim Silva: I live on the streets because there are no  places to rent, and I haven't enough money.

INT: How long have you been living in this situation?

JS: For about three years.


Man and reporter sitting at a table


INT: So you feed yourself with your pension?

JS: With my pension, and sometimes I go to the soup canteen to pick up a plate of food. That's what I am doing tomorrow.

INT: Why?

JS: Because my pension's gone.


Interview with Francisco Palmela Antunes


Int: How do you live?

Francisco P.Antunes: Off the 21 thousands escudos (£70) I receive.

INT: Pension?

FPA: Disability benefit. I'm not entitled to anything else.

INT: And what can you get with it?

FPA: A bowl of soup, nothing more, and that's now and again. When the money arrives we have soup for the first two days, and then there's nothing left. Not even enough for a coffee everyday.


Man with plastic jugs


Man: Good evening, how are you? Would you like some milk?

FPA: yes, a little.

Woman: Your voice sounds better today.



Some organisations distribute food every night as part of their program to help the homeless in Lisbon.



Image of people and a


Mondays and Wednesday you can find the Hari Krishna at the Mouraria.



Plate of food


Man: It's good. I've eaten it before and it's good.

Woman: You've been a customer of ours for a while. Tell us for how long?



Homeless people flock in from all areas to take advantage of the free food. The meals are vegan, in keeping with the monks' beliefs.



Image of a plate of food

Interview with Purnamasi


Purnamasi: Being vegans is one of the characteristics. There is also the religious side. We believe. We're religious people. We have a complete plan in terms of food, of health, of philosophy, of posture, of life.


Woman cooking

Here, the menu is different - soup. The ingredients are supplied by the Salvation Army, and the type of soup depends on whatever was available that day.




For over two years, every Tuesday and Thursday nights, 150 portions of soup have been given out on the street.



People surrounding a van.

Interview with Tenant Andrew Hofer.


INT: If more people come will there be more soup?

Tennant Andrew Hofer: Unfortunately we don't have the financial and human resources to produce more soup. We have very few volunteers, and we would need two or three vans to be able to cover the whole of Lisbon.


Image of van driving off

The Community Life and Peace organisation has two vans and about 170 volunteers.



Inside the van

Every night, two teams go through the streets of Lisbon, distributing milk, yoghurt, fruit, bread or whatever else they have managed to get hold of. The food is donated by a supermarket.



People surrounding a van

The teams start their rounds at about nine o'clock in the evening and don't finish until at least 3 am.



Image of shopping centre

While Team A covers areas with a higher concentration of homeless, Team B is responsible for those further away.



Inside the van. Interview with Gago


Gago: In this round we have a bit more time to talk to people, to spend some time with them, instead of just giving them the food and leaving.

INT: Is that one of your aims?

Gago: The main objective is to make people understand that they are important, that they are human beings and  they can have dignity.


Image of man lighting a cigarette

But to these people, dignity is often an unattainable privilege, rather than a human right. In a sad reflection of their situation, many of the homeless die where they lived - on the streets.



Interview with Pedro Bonfigli


INT: Has anyone died near you on the streets?

Pedro Bonfigli: Yes. Over there by the Dona Maria Theatre. And over there, in the Mouraria, a man died; the man who used to look after my blanket. I went over to ask him for the blanket and there he was with blood coming out of his mouth. I went and told the police that he was dead. I touched him like this, and he was dead.

INT: Did you ever find out why?





PB: It was cirrhosis. And the other one died of cold.

INT: Died of cold?

PB: ( nods yes)


Images of car in the street

In May, Lisbon will be host to 1998's World Exhibition. At an estimated cost of 800 million pounds sterling,  Expo 98 will celebrate scientific, artistic and humanitarian achievements.




In the Praça da Espanha, a large billboard counts down the seconds to this enormous event, which is intended to be a showcase for the delights of Lisbon. But only metres away, there are people living in some of the most undignified conditions imaginable.




Thousands pass over it every day, but few will have noticed it - a long tunnel, little more a metre high. Besides from being a dumping ground it has also become the home of four human beings.



Interview with "Young " Fernando


Fernando Novo: Living here? It's always cold, there are rats, and it's dirty.

INT: Are there many rats?

FN: Rats - they are not even rats, they are rabbits, genuine rabbits.



Two men, both called Fernando, live in one end of the tunnel, and at the other end we find Diamantino, and also Diniz, who doesn't want to be filmed. They all met on the streets and now here in the tunnel they share their lives and their stories.



Interview with Diamantino


Diamantino: I had an industrial accident and was left with my finger like this. It doesn't have a bone. What I receive from the state is not enough to give me peace.


Close up of bottle of water


INT: Were you insured?

Diamantino: I was, at the time I was.

INT: And didn't you get paid?

D: I received 32 thousand and 700 hundred escudos per month (£110).

INT: For how long?

D: A year. I received it for a year.

INT: And you had started living on the streets by then?

D: yes, I had.


Interview with "Young" Fernando


Young Fernando: I have been using drugs for 12 years.

INT: Always heroin?

YF: Always. Always shooting up. I have been shooting up for 12 years.

INT: How do you finance your habit?

YF: Stealing.

YF: How much do you need a day?

YF: It depends. Whatever I manage to get. Maybe 25, 20.

INT: And you spend it all on drugs?

YF: Yes. The more I have the more I spend.

INT: Have you been in jail?

YF: Yes. Twice. I wasn't given any conditions to rebuild my life. I had nowhere to go, so I came straight to this hole.


Hand holding a cigarette


Old Fernando: I was in jail for many years as well. But that is irrelevant. It wasn't responsible for the change in my living conditions.

INT: But was it after you were in jail that you started sleeping on the streets?

OF: It was long after. I was abroad before that.

OF: Do you have any explanation for why it happened?

OF: No. I can't find any.



The tunnel is what binds these four men together. It's important to them that they avoid becoming an object of pity or disgust, something to be stared at in the street.




They are not alone in their search for privacy and dignity; not far away there is another cavern where three young men have made their home.



Interview with Marco Paulo


Marco Paulo: When the weather is good, living here...well of course it's not easy. Being visible to everyone one...It's still different from sleeping under the arcades where everyone passes through day and night. People look and say: "Poor things. They're miserable", others say "drug addicts or drunkards". Those are the only two words they say. At least here we keep away from those words and from the people that make those comments.


Image of a street

But those who live where everybody can see them cannot avoid the stares and comments.



Image of two man talking and pointing

And, strange as it may seem, there are plenty of people that seem to enjoy looking at them, to derive a kind of morbid satisfaction from this public display of misery and misfortune.



Image of woman pulling up her trousers.

Interview with Bruno da Costa


INT: Do you think anyone can end up homeless?

Bruno da Costa: Yes and no. Yes, because anyone can lose their job. No money to pay the rent, receive an eviction notice and you're out. Theoretically it is possible, but of course it also depends on the informal support that the person has.




The urban poor are always more isolated. They're left to their own devices more and therefore suffer more and have greater difficulty in overcoming the situation; because they need a kind of support that is not merely the institutional support which, as we are well aware, is not enough.


Image of day light and busy street

As the regular citydwellers arise, they reclaim their neighbourhood from the homeless, who must abandon the places where they spent the night.



Image of man getting dressed

They almost always intend to return again at nightfall and so they hide their belongings wherever they can. Usually, there is precious little to keep safe.




The daylight hours are spent searching for ways to make money, hoping that perhaps by dusk there will be enough to avoid another long cold night in the open.



Image of man helping to park cars

Despite the high cost of parking in the city centre, the majority of carpark helpers in Lisbon are in fact homeless.



Image of man wearing yellow jacket.

Interview with Marco Paulo


Marco Paulo: This life, it gets to you. People think that we're all drug addicts. In fact 95% aren't, but we all end up being perceived as if we are. And that is frustrating.


Inside the cavern


INT: That's the way you feel?

MP: Yes. Undoubtedly. I feel rejected by society.


Image of magazines

Cais, a magazine for the homeless, was created  to give marginalised people a means of social rehabilitation.




The paper, the photographs, the labour and the printing are all free. Each copy costs 250 escudos, which is about 85 pence. Because of the minimal overheads, the vendor can keep 65 pence of this.



Interview with Manuel Maia Macedo


INT: How do people react to the magazine?

Manuel Maia Macedo: Some react well, but most people aren't aware of it yet. Some people turn  away, I don't know why, we're not animals. But we keep on going. With everybody's good will, we'll sell everything.


Men in yellow selling the magazine

All vendors are legal and easily identifiable. They are each entitled to sell up to 300 magazines, giving them an income of them approximately 60 thousand escudos per month (£206)



Interview with Inês Frazão


Inês Frazão: The aim of this project is to be the first step towards the social rehabilitation of these people. If we don't set a limit some of the salespeople could have such a high salary that there wouldn't be an incentive for them to look for other types of work. At the moment, we want to give this opportunity to as many people as possible, and if each vendor sold a very high number of magazines that would stop other people from selling them because  there wouldn't be  enough magazines for everyone.



The magazine run is 20 thousand copies. However, it rarely comes out when it should.

Whenever the magazine does not come out, the vendors have little option but to return once again to the streets, and to the canteens where the homeless come together in their quest for food.



Image of people eating.

280 lunches and 250 dinners are served daily at the Anjos Canteen.

The building is over 100 years old and clearly in a state of disrepair. The council has already received an application for permission to carry out improvements.



Interview with Cristina Oliveira


Cristina Oliveira: We will move temporarily to another building. We plan to have a canteen, a workshop and a daycare centre here.

INT: But you are not sure yet how long the work will go on for, or even if it will happen?

CO: No, we don't know yet.

INT: Do you already have a temporary building in mind for when the building work starts?

CO: I believe there are several options, but nothing is certain as of yet.



At the Anjos Canteen meals are free but in order to be served  you must have a card which is issued by the Misericordia de Lisboa [Holy House?]. But not everyone is entitled to this highly desirable card; for the unlucky ones another option is to go to AMI - the International Medical Aid centre.



People sitting at a table

A 100 people come here for lunch each day. The food is cooked elsewhere and the organisation pays about £1.50 for each meal. In order to eat, each person has to pay 50 pence towards the cost of the meal.



Interview with Margarida Mendes


Margarida Mendes: I think that if the meals were free, maybe the people would feel differently because they wouldn't be paying for it themselves. They feel differently here in the canteen because they're paying for it.

INT: So they feel they have rights?

MM: And they feel they have rights. They say so, they say: I've paid so I have the right to this and that.


Person having a shower

For 35 pence they can have a shower, and laundry facilities also cost 35pence.



Drawing of shirt in blue background

Clothing distribution, social, medical and legal advice, and access to a jobcentre are all provided here free of charge.  It's a joint initiative with the Lisbon council, but will shortly be expanded to include the Graça Refuge.



Image of big house

The building itself belongs to the council but will soon come under the management of AMI. It can house another 30 people.



Interview with Sara Amâncio


S A: This space used to belong to the council and was reasonably well looked after. It cost approximately 30 million escudos (£100,000) to recover. Where administration is concerned, we estimate the cost at approximately 30 thousand escudos (£100) a month, but we have not yet begun that process.



The Xabregas Refuge is housed in an old tobacco factory, and has been open since March. It's managed by the Salvation Army, and has capacity for 56 people.



Two men sitting at a desk

This is another joint venture, this time between the council and the Department of Social Security. All of the expenses are shared.




Previously, all provision of accommodation for the homeless was the responsibility of the Misericórdia de Lisboa (Holy House).



Man and woman sitting at a desk

Last year, 1640 homeless people attended the social emergency service. For each of these, a support plan was formulated.



Interview with Natalia Santos


NS: If they are very fragile, accommodation is the first thing that must be taken care of, besides food. If, on the other hand, they have a certain stability despite living on the streets, the initial strategy might not be to arrange accommodation immediately, but to get them involved in certain projects, decided upon after discussion with a social worker, that will eventually lead to accommodation.


Image of yellow house

Last year the Santa Casa

spent the equivalent of 350 thousand pounds on accommodation for the homeless.

Because there's not enough space in the refuges, the Misericórdia has made agreements with some of the larger bed and breakfast hotels in the city.



Close up of a watch

But even so, there are not enough rooms for everyone and the result is what we see here.



Disabled woman laying on the floor

Falling into these circumstances is surprisingly easy. There are many people living constantly on the breadline.



Shot of a child's face

People like David's family, who spend their days in Rossio selling wallets and covering cards with plastic. The entire family lived on the streets for two and a half years.



Interview with David


Int: Do you remember sleeping on the streets?

David: I do. I remember sleeping in a little box over there.



Now the family live in a bed and breakfast. They pay two a half thousand escudos per day (£8).



Interview with Palmira Ortega


Int: Is two and a half thousand escudos enough to pay the rent for a house?

PO: It is, but every time I go to see a house of about  30 or 40 thousand a month, and I say that I live in a bed and breakfast, people tell me to call back later or that the house has already been taken. When I call back they always tell me that it has been taken, and often that's not true.

Int: Why do you think this happens?

PO: In my opinion it's because I live in a bed and breakfast and I have no means.


Image of money changing hands


Int: How much can you make a day?

PO: Well, three, a bit over three thousand a day. That's it. No more than that. I pay for the room, buy some food and that's all, I have no money left again.

Int: What happens if you don't manage to make that money?

PO: If I don't, I can owe two or three days rent but no more than that. If I still couldn't pay I would obviously have to live on the streets with all my things.


Image of child

Tomorrow is school day for David, but it's now 10 pm and his parents have not yet managed to find a way to pay for the room.



People. Man singing Fado




Image of guitar player

The guitar player comes in once a week, from Setubal. While he plays in the hope of a little money, the homeless people take the opportunity to have some fun.




On these nights, Jordão Oliveira's presence is indispensable, but once the music is over he goes back to his isolation. For almost 10 years this former iron metallurgy worker has slept on the streets. He's always by himself because he sees no reason to share his misery.



Interview with Jordão Oliveira


Int: How long have you been separated from your wife?

JO: It's been roughly 10, 11 years.

Int: And was that the turning point?

JO: It was. That was my disgrace; I had a great wife. These things happen in life. The fault wasn't hers, I was the guilty one. Well, we have to let the truth be told. Today I swallow my words, but it is too late.

Int: And after that you retired?

JO: Yes, I did.

Int: And then you came to live on the streets?

JO: Then it was the streets.

Int: Do you have children?

JO: I have two. A pair. My daughter is a hairdresser and my son is a car mechanic.

Int: How long has it been since you last saw them?

JO: A long time. They don't care about me. It's my own fault.

Int: Why?

JO: We have to tell the truth and not hurt people. My children don't care about me because I'm a drunk.


Image of man intoxicated

Alcoholism is the biggest scourge of the homeless. If street-living isn't a consequence of alcohol, often alcohol becomes a  consequence of living on the streets.



Image of wall

And it was mainly alcohol that reduced Antonio Beringela to living rough.



Interview with Antonio Beringela:


Int: Do you know today's date?

AB: I do. It's my birthday isn't it.

Int: Do you know how old you are?

AB: 65, isn't it?

Int: Has anyone wished you a happy birthday?

AO: No-one. Nobody, nothing at all.


Shot of man's hand

Today he is a nobody, but during the 70's his name was amongst the credits of at least nine mainstream films, films whose titles are household names in Portugal.



Man's name in film's credit

Here we see him in his glory days on the silver screen.



Scenes of António Beringela acting in the film




Images of theatre lights

Now Antonio Beringela has swapped movies for theatres and is sleeping rough in Park Mayer, the theatrical district of Lisbon.



Interview with Jacinto do Carmo


JC: Fonseca e Costa, the film-maker, has been in my house . He's given him food, and clothes and money to go and have a wash. And other people too. Nicolau Breyner is someone who also likes him very much. Every time he sees him he gives him money and tells him : "go and have a bath, have a shave." He doesn't want to know. As soon as he has a few coppers he goes and drinks them all.


Man laying down

For a whole host of reasons - such as alcohol, drugs or previous illness -  the incidence of mental instability among the homeless is very high. Sometimes just being destitute for a long period of time may have precipitated the breakdown.



Interview with Maria de Lurdes


Int: How old are you?


Int: How old?

ML: 14. It was my birthday not long ago.


Interview with Antonio Santos:


Int: Mr Antonio, what are you wearing on your head?

AS: It's for the gases that they leave over there. This way I'm safe.

Int: Who leaves those gases?

AS: The police and their assistants. People they've asked to do it.


Man sitting on the street

There are people suffering from psychoses. Even people suffering from schizophrenia:



Interview with "John Weisser Muller"


Int: What is your name?

Man: John Weisser Muller.



John Weisser Muller was the first person to play the title role in the Tarzan films. This man is well know amongst the Santa Casa da Misericordia street team.



Image of two man walking down the street.

These people are unable to get themselves to the doctor - but if Mohammed won't go to the mountain, the mountain must go to Mohammed. So three times a week, a medical team take themselves to the homeless of the city.



Doctor talking to man


Doctor: Your name is Hitler? That's it? Only Hitler?


Man smoking

It's been like this for many years. The man who calls himself Hitler always gives the same answer to the same questions and is never understood.



Man sitting by the wall.

Close to Santa Apolónia, we find a young man who didn't even know his own name not too long ago. In fact he's called Rui and he comes from Torres Vedras.



Interview with Dr Antonio Bento:


AB: In extreme cases, such as the one we've just seen, it's just like someone who has had a car accident and is left in a coma. No one expects that person to get out of the coma, or asks him what he wants to do.

Int: But no one would expect  that person to live on the streets.

AB: No-one would leave them on the streets. But they do in these cases, and why is that? It's because this is not an easy issue for anyone. Either because there is no blood or because there's no visible disability. People assume either that this is their choice or that these people like this life. This problem is more complex.


Image of man in cardboard box

So in short there are people on the streets who have lost the ability to decide that they want to get out of that situation, but because of their situation, because they have no support system  to fall back upon, there's nobody there to make the decision for them.

The worst case of the evening came  next.



Interview with José Simões Valente



JSV: I would rather be in the bottom of  the River Tagus than here. I wouldn't have any problems with making a fool of myself. Because I am making a fool of myself. Unfortunately for me, a fool is what I am. I am 40 years old and I know that I'm  making a fool of myself. And I shouldn't even be here. I don't get on well with my family, so what I really wish for is to disappear .


Man showing scars


Doctor: Have you harmed yourself?

JSV: Yes. I'll show you: I've slashed my arm and I've wounds all over my body. What I'd like is to disappear from this world.


Doctors crossing the road

The Street Team feel their visit has been worthwhile, if only for this one encounter.



Interview with Dr. Antonio Bento


AB: Sometimes, just with our very presence we can help avoid a suicide or a potential suicide, because as we all know, where suicide is concerned, communication is essential. Many of these people are desperately lonely and are breaking up with their families.


Image of man walking down the street

The problem starts with financial difficulties, and the disintegration of the family unit. It almost always spirals into a case of extreme marginalisation.



Interview with Pedro Bonfigli


PB: I think my mother has never loved me very much. Unfortunately. She has never helped me. I spent eight months in jail and she never once came to see me in prison. She says she couldn't go inside a prison. Christmas, birthday, Easter, I was alone. Inside. It's sad.


Interview with Jose Pereira


Int: Do you make friends in the streets?

JP:No. Not friendship with any real meaning. All the friends we make in this life have ulterior motives. They will only help you if it's in their own interest. (give you the pigs hand to receive it's head: PORTUGUESE SAYING THAT MEANS TO GIVE A LITTLE TO RECEIVE MUCH MORE - I DON'T KNOW OF ANY THAT MEANS THE SAME IN ENGLISH)


Interview with Joaquim Silva. Image of a dog


JS: Capita is my companion. He cheers me up when I feel like crying. I pet him and then I don't cry any more.

Int: He's your friend?

Js: He's truly a good friend. Capito, come here.


Interview with João


João: Some people wouldn't accept this situation as easily as I do. It seems as if I have got used to it. Imagine, it evens seems that I like it.



When looking for a place to sleep, homeless people usually try to find somewhere close to a police station. The violence and crime feared by the rest of the population is a much more real and prevalent threat to the homeless.



Interview with Conceição Machado


Int: How long have you been on the streets?

CM: Almost 25 years. It must be almost 25 years.

Int: Did you always sleep here?

CM: No. In the beginning I would sleep anywhere. I don't known. It seems to me that I wasn't as frightened. But now I have to come here because everything has changed. We have to be careful. There are always people with bad intentions, so, of course, I always come here.

Int: Don't you ever lie down?

CM: No. I always sleep like this.

Int: You always sleep sitting down?

MC: Yes. Lying down is very dangerous.


Interview with Maria de Lurdes


ML: It is better not to always sleep in the same place. We are very poor, unfortunately we sleep on the streets and if we always sleep in the same spot people will come and steal our things. One day I had my sandwiches stolen. I  had a sandwich to eat and it was stolen.


Image of rubbish bin

Despite being a minority upon the streets, it's generally women who are the most isolated. Some don't even receive the benefits to which they are entitled. This is the case with Conceição Machado, who is 70 years old, yet not receiving the social security benefit which is the right of every pensioner.



Shot of busy street

And it's upon the streets that many former prostitutes end up.



Interview with Maria Salomé


Int: For how long were you a prostitute?

MS: Well, my daughter is 18, so it has been 18 years. I was pregnant, and divorced for two years. No-one would give me a job, so I had to prostitute myself. Around 18 years ago.

Int: Do you still prostitute yourself?

MS: Sometimes. If I'm clean men will come with me, but when I'm dirty like this they won't. They see me dirty like this, sleeping on the streets and it's annoying.

Int: How long have you been sleeping on the streets?

MS: Roughly two years.

Int: So, even prostituting yourself you can't make enough money to pay for a bed and breakfast?

MS: No. I can't. There are younger girls. I get a man now and then but very rarely.