The Prestes Maia building in downtown S?o Paulo, abandoned for 12 years, had become a haven for drugs and prostitution. Then, in 2002, more than 400 homeless families, in cooperation with a local group called the Downtown Homeless Movement, occupied the 22-story building. Conditions were crowded and difficult-the building lacks electricity and running water-but residents established a free library, cinema, and educational and social activities.
The Brazilian Constitution recognizes the right to housing and states that all property must serve a ‘social function.’ But in S?o Paulo, where slums and homelessness are common, an estimated 400,000 housing units are unused. The Downtown Homeless Movement, which has reclaimed more than 30 buildings in S?o Paulo, is just one of many groups reclaiming abandoned buildings across Brazil. At Prestes Maia, residents have fought eviction with protests, road blockades, and legal battles. After years of struggle, they have won either new housing or assistance from the government.
(via Hit and Run).