Brazil building hotels in preparation to host 2014 World Cup while abject poverty leaves thousands homeless
Preparations for the 2014 World Cup are underway: Brazil is gearing up to host this massive event and many new hotels are being built to accommodate the thousands of tourists who will surge into the country. However, in the midst of all of this activity and planning, many homeless habitants of Rio de Janeiro worry that they have been forgotten amid all the hype.
While some are looking forward to the excitement, the atmosphere and the thrill of this big event, one mother simply says, “we don't care about the World Cup. We care about being able to give our kids a dignified upbringing, access to water, to sanitation."
This seems, to many, to be a simple request, yet the situation in São João de Meriti in north-west Rio demonstrates otherwise.
Women and children have been forced to seek shelter in abandoned factories, warehouses and sex motels that are aplenty in the suburbs of Rio. One such three-storey sex motel is Oasis which houses some 300 guests on a permanent basis, all waiting to be re-houses. Many are single mothers, as up to a quarter of all birth certificates in Rio lack the name of the father.
Major squats and abandoned sites line the stretches of the motorway which links Rio and São Paulo, the Via Dutra, and many go there in the hope that they can provide shelter for their families, although some lack basic amenities such as a toilet.
Despite the sewage that drips through into the rooms, many are grateful for the shelter as it provides at least some safety as well as access to a shop selling passion fruit lollipops, an evangelical church, two bars and a jukebox.
Mother of four, Rosinéia Gonçalves, who escaped from her violent husband before taking refuge on the streets, says, “When I most needed something, this place helped me a lot. I spent eight months on the streets. I've been through a lot.”
Rio represents both sides of the coin as despite all this poverty, their property market is producing excellent results. With the World Cup imminent, prices are increasing while other parts of the country are suffering from abject poverty, displaying a deficit of 7 million homes.
Various attempts have been made to cure this deficit over recent years, including a programme launched by previous president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose aim was to create a minimum of £1 million low-cost homes.
While families staying at Oasis are thankful that they have shelter, many feel let down by the government after promises to rehouse them have not been followed through. Authorities have been telling the families since 2010 that they would be rehoused, yet so far they have yet to see these promises come true.
One Oasis resident, 40 year old Francinéia Dos Santos, has a sixth month old son to care for, and sells lollipops for 20p each. Unable to afford other accommodation, she is also waiting to be rehoused, and says, “I hope they will get us out."