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cities & citizens series - bridging the urban divide

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frightened to leave home Maria de Lurdes Alves dos Santos, unemployed in Vila Nova Galvão

Afraid to leave the house empty when her husband and daughters go to work, Maria de Lurdes Alves dos Santos, age 56, stopped working as a cleaning woman. An 11-year resident of Vila Nova Galvão, north of São Paulo near the Fernão Dias highway and the border with the municipality of Guarulhos, she spends her days protecting the family house, which was invaded twice by people fleeing police.

Before buying a home, Santos and her family lived for 16 years in Cachoeirinha, also in the northern zone, paying R$350 monthly rent (about.US $200). The purchase of the property in Vila Nova Galvão didn’t guarantee the family peace of mind: since they still do not have the deed to the property, they are constantly concerned about the status of their ownership.

‘We cannot leave the house alone. Kids have already entered there twice to hide. If the police catch them, they are going to think that we were sheltering them’, says Santos.

Nevertheless, Santos’ husband, who is a construction foreman, renovated the three-story building. The family divides the space into a bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom on one floor. They are now renovating another floor to rent out. ‘It is a hill with a lot of ugly houses. But on the other side the view is pleasant. You can see Guarulhos airport and the Parque dos Pinheiros cemetery, which is just in front of where I live’, Santos says.

Of her five children, two still live with her. The oldest, 33, was raised in Remanso, in Bahia, by Santos’ mother. After 21 years without going back to her native state, she finally made a quick visit last year, on the occasion of the death of her mother. She is proud of having two daughters in college. ‘One is going to graduate this year as a lawyer and the other next year in architecture’. Her son studied business administration and another daughter studied photography, but both abandoned the courses. Santos hopes they will return to study.

Although Santos says they like the neighbourhood, they would be willing to leave, owing to the stressinducing insecurity she and her family face every day. Image: Marcelo Min Fotogarrafa Agency

Profile for UN-Habitat

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Profile for unhabitat
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