Brazil: CAFOD community under new threat of eviction

Independent Catholic News

 Nete Araujo with children, holding petitions signed by parishioners from England & Wales.

Nete Araujo with children, holding petitions signed by parishioners from England & Wales.

A community at the heart of CAFOD’s work in São Paulo is under renewed threat of eviction. For seven years, with the support of CAFOD’s local partners and campaigners in this country, the 237 homeless families who occupy the Mauá building in Brazil’s most populous city have fought to make it their permanent home.

At Christmas, there was hope of a breakthrough when the São Paulo city government passed a decree to buy the building and turn it into properly-equipped social housing for the families.

But the situation has taken a turn for the worse after a local judge issued an eviction order, based on a fire brigade health and safety report which deemed the building unsafe. The date scheduled for the eviction is 15 April, meaning that – within weeks – all 237 families, including the elderly, sick and children, could be forced out on to the streets.

The city government needs to push through its compulsory purchase before 15 April in order to halt the eviction, and community leaders like Nete Araujo are working hard with the city government to achieve this.

Nete says: “We are working to remedy the problems identified by the Fire Brigade – buying fire extinguishers, re-wiring and making other repairs. The City Council has yet to make the expropriation payment. They proposed doing this on the 15 April, the day that is marked for eviction. But as a community, we protested and now they have said they will do it in two weeks. We hope to celebrate soon!”

Osmar Borges, an adviser to the community, added: “This is a unique opportunity. God willing, Mauá will be converted into a beautiful place where low income families can live permanently. We believe that with the ongoing work we are doing here, we will ensure this victory and fulfill the dream of hundreds of families. We would like to thank you for your support which is helping to improve the lives of families and fulfill their dreams of having a decent home and roof over their heads. Together we are creating a better world for those who have struggled and are suffering.”

The Mauá building was once a luxury hotel but was abandoned and left empty for 17 years until the families occupied and renovated it in 2007. Through CAFOD’s Connect2 scheme, parishes in England and Wales have been following and supporting the Mauá community since 2010, and hundreds of campaigners signed a petition in Summer 2012 which helped to fight off a previous eviction order.

Last September, actress Jo Joyner visited the community and met Nete, as part of a series of films for ITV’s Daybreak programme on Brazil’s housing crisis.

CAFOD is calling on supporters to add their name to an open letter to the President of Brazil and the Mayor and Governor of São Paulo, demanding justice for poor and vulnerable communities in the city.

Add your name to the petition

In the run-up to the World Cup this year, award-winning actress Jo Joyner is backing CAFOD’s calls for people in Britain to stand by families in the poorest communities of Brazil. Find out more:

Read the open letter to the President of Brazil and Mayor and Governor of São Paulo:

Find out more about CAFOD’s Connect2 programme: