The president of the State Movement of the Street Population of São Paulo, Robson Mendonça, has been chained in front of the City Council since 10 am this Monday (20) in protest against the end of emergency programs for the homeless created during the pandemic . He also went on a hunger strike.
According to him, the administration of Mayor Ricardo Nunes (MDB) interrupted by 80% the distribution of 10,000 lunchboxes a day to the homeless. “As of the 25th, the distribution of the remaining 2,000 lunchboxes will be ended,” he said.
The Citizen Kitchen Network program began in April last year with the objective of guaranteeing food for the homeless in the capital, as commerce and the movement of people on the streets were significantly reduced by sanitary measures. A partnership was made in which participating restaurants received R$ 10 per lunch box distributed.
In addition to the distribution of lunchboxes, the city government created emergency vacancies in hostels, which will also be extinct by the 30th.
Mendonça said that he will only leave the City Hall after being received by the president of the House, councilor Milton Leite. “If each councilor allocates part of the amendment budget to feed the homeless, the problem would be alleviated,” he said.
The Public Ministry challenged the end of the program in court, but judge Kenichi Koyama denied that its continuation was mandatory. In the decision, the magistrate argued that this is a political issue and that the judiciary should be left out of the discussion.
According to a census released by the city in 2019, there are around 24,300 people living on the streets of São Paulo.
In a statement, the Municipal Secretariat for Human Rights and Citizenship stated that those assisted by the Citizen Kitchen Network program are being directed to the Bom Prato program. The justification was “the progression of the pandemic scenario and the current period of greater openness in relation to the functioning of trade”.
The folder also said that since August 4,000 cards with QR Codes, provided by the State Government, have been distributed to homeless people who are not taken in by the social assistance network services to be used in Bom Prato units.
The City Council stated in a note that President Milton Leite (DEM) is meeting external agendas this Monday. Leite confirmed that he will meet with Robson Mendonça and councilwoman Erika Hilton this Wednesday at 4 pm. “I’ll do my best to help,” said Leite.
As a former homeless person for six years, Mendonça has already felt the difficulty of not having something to eat. A former farmer, he says he lost everything when he sold his property in Alegrete (RS) to move to São Paulo and was the target of a kidnapping. “They took everything I had and I became a homeless person,” he says.
For six years without a permanent home, he received help of R$250 to pay the rent and, after that, he managed to get back on his feet. That was when he founded the São Paulo Street Population Movement in 2000.
Mendonça was part of the creation of the Intersectorial Committee of the Municipal Policy for the Homeless Population, created in 2013 in the city of São Paulo, and is among its members to this day.
Since the first day of the pandemic, he says he has been distributing around 500 lunchboxes daily in his office in downtown São Paulo. “For some weeks now, the quantity has been decreasing and it is not possible to meet everyone”, he says about the reason that led him to chain himself to the bars of the City Council.
“We resorted to the Public Ministry, we sent officers to the city hall, but nothing helped, so I had to take this extreme measure.”
Diagnosed with cancer and recovering from a recent hospitalization to treat the disease, Mendonça is causing concern among movement colleagues for his fragile health.