NAP-CERU evaluates stereotypes of people who live on the streets

By Giovanna Lukesic Reis
(Translation by Marina Ramos Marci)

By Giovanna Lukesic Reis 
(Translation by Marina Ramos Marci)

Differently from the common sense, the population in street condition is not restricted to drug addicts and people with mental problems. It is a heterogeneous contingent composed predominantly by men, once women incorporate themselves into family homes or into prostitution.

This is one of the results of a research conducted by the Research Support Center for Rural and Urban Studies (NAP-CERU), of the Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences (FFLCH) of the University of São Paulo (USP), which supported public policies of São Paulo City Government in social area.

Requested by the City Office for Social Assistance and Development (SMADS) of São Paulo City, coordinated by the currently deputy-mayor Alda Marco Antônio and under administration of the mayor Gilberto Kassab, the research intended to understand the life trajectory of those people before they started living on the streets, especially sheltered people – those using the hosting services of SMADS.

Quantitative and qualitative techniques were used in order to take notice and understand who that population was, considering that it is increasing considerably. In 1991, the population number in street condition was composed of 3,392 individuals; twenty years later, reached 14,478, according to census carried out by Foundation-School for Sociology and Politics of São Paulo (FESPSP).

Male and heterogeneous population
Based on this method, it was possible to identify certain characteristics between those people living in shelters and reach conclusions that guided the Secretary of SMADS in her decisions. The main one was that this population is not restricted to drug addicts or people with mental problems; it is actually heterogeneous, requiring therefore different types of shelters that can meet the peculiarities of each case.

Another important point is the male predominance in street condition (84.3%). According to the research coordinator, one of the directors of CERU Maria Helena Rocha Antuniassi, this is because women can more easily be incorporated into family homes, as aggregate or maids, differently of what happen to men. In addition, women under 50 years, in this condition, are easily incorporated into prostitution, not using shelters as a result. In general, women who continue in the street have mental problems. Men, in turn, still carry the role of family provider, which is disturbed by a background of prison and unemployment. This expectation break leads to family breakdown, one of the main causes of the phenomenon.

Many researches of NAP-CERU are based on French sociologists, recognized as its “theoretical framework”, as defined Antuniassi. The research, therefore, sought inspiration in socio-anthropological studies about the population in street condition and tried to look this phenomenon in a reflective and critical way. The aim of this bibliographic support was to use national and international academic studies to understand social problems experienced in big cities.

Public Policy
“It was a very interesting and useful research as the secretary could reevaluate the organization and management of their actions regarding this population,” said Antuniassi. Based on conclusions about people in street condition, the secretary of SMADS, Alda Marco Antonio, elaborated the Decree 46/2010/SMADS, and the mayor Haddad implemented the 2013-2016 Target Plan of the City, which proposes overcome extreme poverty in the city.

In December 2014, the book Unemployment, Family Break and Loneliness: life history of population in street condition in São Paulo (from portuguese “Desemprego, Ruptura Familiar e Solidão: trajetória de vida da população em situação de rua em São Paulo”, Anna Blume Edition, 144 pages, R$35,00) was launched. It presents the research conclusions in details and brings reports of the sheltered life histories.

Furthermore, SMADS replaced the term “homeless” (in Portuguese “população de rua”) and incorporated the concept of population in street condition, approaching more specifically people who still are able to fight for their citizenship, avoiding falling into total exclusion, which means living on the street.

That publication as well as other surveys carried out by CERU aims to exceed the boundaries of academia and socialize knowledge and experiences, according to the researcher. CERU was initially a civil non-profit society constituted by professors of the former Social Sciences Department and coordinated by Maria Isaura Pereira de Queiroz. It was transformed into a Research Support Center (NAP) in 1992, and is therefore one of the oldest in University of São Paulo.

More information: Maria Helena Rocha Antuniassi, phone (11) 3091-3784 / 3735, e-mail, website