From Boca de Runa, Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 2008 edition comes the Brazilian magazine’s street vendor’s own stories of what Christmas means to them, and how they spend it. These stories show that, no matter what the circumstances, homeless people have the same basic values and hopes that everybody shares. These stories could have been written by homeless people anywhere in the world, and just goes to show that the homelessness problem is universal.
Boca de Runa is a member of the INSP, and Porto Alegre (“Joyous Port”) is Brazil’s 10th largest city, with a population of 4,100,000 people.
Even without a home or a family, homeless people also celebrate
Like people with a home, Christmas can also be a day of joy and celebration for those who live on the streets. 41 year-old André Oliveira dos Santos has been homeless for 18 years. He says that, as well as encountering mean-spirited people, there are also plenty of kind-hearted people around. “There are a lot of good people who come and share a bit of their celebration with us, bring a plate of food, talk to us and thank us for having them.” For Andre, Christmas means another year of life, another year of wisdom, forgetting the past and facing the present.
There are people in need. Luís Carlos do Rosário spent three Christmases on the streets without ever receiving so much as a “Merry Christmas”. Many homeless people are okay with not getting anything for Christmas; others expect something. But there are also many people who have a home and come and spend Christmas on the streets, because they like it better.
22 year-old Éderson da Rocha, who has been homeless for 6 years, spends Christmas on the streets and prefers it that way. He says he thinks Christmas on the streets is okay, but he misses his mum and his son. For him, Christmas means joy, peace and love.
31 year-old Alexandra Lúcia Nascimento has been on the streets for 6 months. She has never spent Christmas on the streets; she prefers spending it at home so she can be with her two daughters. This Christmas will be different for Alexandra because one of her daughters was taken into care. The gift she wishes for most is to have a life with her daughters again.
“My happiest Christmas was…”
When my mum woke me up at midnight with a big hug and a loving kiss. It was the last Christmas I spent with my family and I will never forget it. (Marcelo Guedes – Mimi)
“The first Christmas I spent with my whole family was great fun because we played Secret Santa and there was a lot of laughter. Then my cousins smashed eggs on my head because it was also my birthday. At midnight, sharp, the blowout began, and then there was a birthday cake that my mum always baked for me.” (Robson Quadros dos Santos)
“Christmas means a lot to me. Some of us who live on the streets don’t even have a family. We just have homesickness. But we’re not that sad, we have to live life the way it is.”
“For me Christmas is good and always has been, because every Christmas is a year gone by and things always change. For the better.” (Bocão)
“Christmas is especially good for me because it’s the birthday of my second mum, my gran.” (Adriano)
Pingüim Restaurant and a Bald Santa
The following story happened to a group of homeless people one Christmas day:
They were around Parque da Redenção when this guy and a few other people came to wish them a Merry Christmas and give them several gifts. The items included a roast chicken, ten 2-litre bottles of pop, a big cake, Russian salad and 4 bottles of champagne. A whole meal. Imagine how happy they were. If the guy wasn’t skinny and bald, he would probably have been mistaken for Santa Claus. Actually, his beard was black, but who knows, maybe he dyed it…
They carried the bags all the way to Lima e Silva, by the restaurant Pingüim, where they used to hang out. They spread a cloth on the floor like a picnic blanket and asked the restaurant manager if he could chill the champagne. He agreed. A while later a waiter came by with a tray full of cold beers: “The clients sent these for you”. It was the icing on the cake. It really was Christmas.
Translated from Portuguese by INSP volunteer, Fernanda Roxo.
Reprinted from Boca de Rua, Brazil