ON WHAT turned out to be one of the wettest nights of the year, The Resident joined one of the 35 teams conducting a survey on the homeless population in Lisbon recently. Helena Lopes da Costa, in charge of social activities within Lisbon Câmara, headed the survey on the numbers of both the homeless and the drug addicts living in Lisbon. She said that this initiative will update the survey originally carried out five years ago, and will help the câmara with planning out initiatives on its current problem of homelessness. She added that there would be well over 100 technical staff on hand to conduct the survey, these are trained people already working in 53 different locations who spend a lot of time gaining the confidence of homeless people, prostitutes and drug addicts throughout the city.
The câmara has five centres at the moment which house 542 homeless people every night. In certain crisis situations they could house up to 840 people. After an initial briefing in the Intendente area of Lisbon, the team consisting of Michael, Andrea and Paulo tramped through the backstreets in the pouring rain to carry out the survey. According to Michael the homeless of Lisbon are, “mostly Portuguese or from the old colonies, but more recently they had come across from Eastern Europe.”
Vitor, a Portuguese man who had been sleeping rough in the area for around six months said, “day is day – you tramp the streets. Night is night – you try to sleep as best you can”. He refused to comment on how long it had been since he was last employed.
Another man, Bruno, who was both homeless and a recovering drug-addict explained to The Resident that he had lived in various parts of the US for 34 years, had got into trouble with the police, been sent to prison and on release was deported to Portugal. He has been on a subsidiary methadone programme and is currently clear of drugs.
Paulo also spoke to The Resident about his experiences as both a drug user and a homeless man. Injecting himself with heroin as he spoke, Paulo explained that he had also been deported from the US. “This is my life,” he said. “I cannot change. Why should I go on a methadone programme, I’m happy as I am.”
Lisbon Câmara is hoping that the updated survey will provide useful information on the numbers of homeless in Lisbon and help to combat this serious problem.