Citizens line up to receive food assistance in Faro Photo: LUÍS FORRA/LUSA

Desperate for help to eat: NGO warns pandemic put 40% more people on breadline

Yet another warning has come over the precarity prompted by the pandemic.

NGO for the homeless CASA (Centro de Acolhimento do Sem-Abrigo) has been talking to Lusa, principally about the ‘unresolved, complex’ problem of Portugal’s 8,100 rough-sleepers. But director general Nuno Jardim has also highlighted a new issue: that of ‘homeless people with a roof over their heads’ but very little else.

He described the ‘new characteristics’ of this phenomenon, which in terms of demand  increased CASA’s workload by 40%.

“There are more foreigners, people who work in the hospitality industry” and who somehow slipped through the net in terms of being able to claim financial support.

Mr Jardim described them as ‘homeless with a roof’, as these people tend to live either in a home, or a room, but have “no conditions for a life in any way dignified”.

They will have had ‘precarious jobs’ (jobs possibly paid in cash, without contracts) before the pandemic, which they lost once it hit.

CASA is currently supporting around 7,000 people throughout the country, only 2,500 of which are truly ‘homeless’.

The social support Legion of Good Faith (Legião de Boa Vontade) stresses it too has had “very, very large” number of calls for help from families in dire straits.

Social assistant Susana Veiga told Lusa the legion receives “three or four calls every day, mostly over food”.

Families are also seeking help to pay household utility bills, she said.

Support association, the Community Life and Peace, explains that its distribution of food parcels almost doubled in March 2020, due to refugees, recently released prisoners and unemployed people adding to the habitual demands of the traditional ‘homeless’ community.

With political campaigning still taking up most of the media spotlight this week, serious socio-economic issues like these will no doubt come up for discussion and further ideas on strategy once a new government has been formed.

Hopes are that the recovery of the economy will ensure many of the ‘new homeless’ return to work, and are able once again to stand on their own feet. But with rising inflation, their problems are unlikely to disappear overnight. Indeed, unemployment for the end of 2021 showed the first increase in numbers enrolled at job centres for eight months (click here).

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