He lives on the steps of the São Jorge cinema, “in full view of people carrying bags out of luxury shops like Prada and Louis Vuitton” but there appears nothing that 20 institutions can do to get Spanish ‘grandfather’ Enrique out of the cold and into some kind of refuge.
Social solidarity institution Santa Casa da Misericórdia maintains that the“almost blind” man with an “enormous hernia that makes it practically impossible for him to walk” is “in spite of everything, lucid”, say reports.
Yet his clothes are “covered in urine”, and he refuses all attempts at help.
“You are the devil! Let me die here”, he is purported to tell those who try to approach him, writes Jornal de Notícias.
The problem, explains parish council president Vasco Morgado, is the law.
“According to the way it is now, if we intern an old person, even for his or her good, I can be accused of kidnap”.
Santa Casa and “more than 20 other institutions” know all about Enrique, says the paper, but there is no legislation allowing them to act.
He has lived for years rolled in blankets, almost always in the same place. “He is dirty, very thin and almost doesn’t move”.
But what is startling is that according to “Bora Láaa-Inspiração em Ação” – a group set up to help homeless people in the capital – Enrique suffers “serious dementia”.
In other words, the argument that he “wants to live the way he lives” should not be relevant.
The case has set social media alight this week, with various newspapers covering Enrique’s ‘plight’ but no apparent answers in sight.
Says one of the people trying to get Enrique off the streets: “Our law allows associations to abandon a person in the street, even if that person is falling apart, full of anger, rage and vices. All it needs is that the person is calm for authorities to say ‘they want to be in the street’… Maybe it is time to change the law, to give the State and Communities the power to take the first step”.
Enrique’s story and family background appear to have been lost in the mists of time. He was first noticed on the steps of São Jorge cinema in 2013. Some posts on social media call him a grandfather, but this may be more symbolic of his age and the frailty and shock people feel at seeing him left in such terrible circumstances.