CAFOD supporters in Westminster diocese have recently been responding to the #ficamaua campaign, which is hoping to stop the eviction of more than 200 families living in an abandoned hotel in the centre of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Not only have CAFOD supporters in Westminster diocese been busy preparing for Harvest, but they have also been getting involved with CAFOD’s latest campaign.
Once a trendy hotel, the Maua Building in the centre of Sao Paulo stood empty for 17 years until 2007, when 237 working families moved in. They lovingly renovated the building and for the last ten years have called it home. Whereas once the building was squalid, it is now home to a thriving community, providing a social use and revitalising an otherwise derelict area in the city centre.
Tony Sheen from the CAFOD Wesminster office visited the community in the Maua building a few years ago.
“What I witnessed when I visited was a loving community of young and old caring for each other, living together and sharing what they had. There were community leaders on each floor who ensured that all had enough to eat and they shared with those who didn’t have enough. It was very well established, with a creche, a library and youth clubs.”
Ever since they moved in the families have been trying to win the legal rights to their home, asking for the authorities to acquire the building and convert it into social housing for low income families.
Far from being a radical claim, this is a move permitted under Brazilian law, which states that all properties must fulfil a social purpose. As such, city planning should be organised to ensure cities respond to social needs, not only financial interests. This is especially pertinent in Sao Paulo; poor families are unable to afford market rents, yet in the city centre there are hundreds of abandoned buildings.
Despite what is stated in law, the families in the building face eviction on the 22nd October. Should the eviction go ahead, almost 1,000 people, including 200 children, would be forced onto the street. All legal routes have been exhausted and so far local authorities have provided no contingency plan.
Heluiza Soares, a coordinator from CAFOD’s São Paulo partner APOIO, said:“We cannot stay silent when faced with such injustice, indifference to the plight of the poor, and backlash in Brazil. Housing is a right which must be guaranteed and we must stand firmly together to ensure social justice and the equitable enjoyment of the city, especially by the most vulnerable and disfavoured citizens. Having a decent home is essential to people’s dignity, safety, livelihoods and ability to thrive.”
CAFOD supporters in Westminster have begun to respond to this request, signing the petition that has been launched to try and halt the eviction. The petition asks that the Brazilian authorities suspend the eviction and negotiate a fair, long-term solution for the families living in the Maua.
Once you’ve signed the petition, we’re also asking you to show solidarity with the community by taking a picture of yourself holding a sign saying #ficamaua to share on Twitter with @CAFOD or Facebook.
All of us in the Westminster office ask for all our supporters to sign the petition against this unjust eviction and pray that justice will prevail.