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The Typical Brazilian Homeless Is a Young Black Man with a Job

A black homeless walks in Curitiba, south of Brazil Male, between the ages of 25 and 44, black, literate, with a paying job.  This description of people living in the streets of Brazil, is a profile produced by the first National Research on the Homeless Population, finished in 71 cities around the country. The research found 31,992 people over the age of 18 on the street, approximately 0.061% of the population of the cities participating in the survey. 

Those who live in the street were found on sidewalks, in public squares and parks, under highways and bridges, at gas stations, beaches, alleyways, in tunnels and abandoned buildings, at recycling centers, junkyards and scrap heaps or passing the night in institutions (hostels, shelters, churches, transitional and subsidized housing).

According to the research, "70% are in the habit of sleeping on the street and 22% in hostels, but 46.5% prefer to pass the night on the street, mainly for the sake of freedom, and 44% show a preference for an institution, out of fear of violence.  Almost half (48%) of those interviewees who participated in the survey have been sleeping on the streets for more than two years."

Based on this research, out of every 100 persons on the street, 71 work, but 48% of the interviewees never have had a formal job, with a signed document.  The average weekly income of those interviewed varied from 20 to 80 Brazilian Reais (approximately 12 to 50 U.S. dollars).

The principal activity for 28% of them is the collection of recyclable material, followed by activities such as "flanelinha" (informal car-park attendant), working as a porter, in construction or in the cleaning sector.  Only 16% of those living on the street said that they begged money to survive.

In what was said with respect to family relationships, 52% said that they have at least one parent in the city in which they live.  Around 35% have frequent contact with their family, and 39% feel that they have a good relationship with their parents.  Alcoholism and drug use are the main reason (35.5%) why those interviewed are homeless.  This is followed closely by unemployment (30%) and estrangement from families (29%).

The research shows that 88.5% of those living on the street are not reached by government programs.  The government handouts get to, at most, 3% of this population.  Although 95% of them no longer go to school, more than 70% of those interviewed know how to read and write. 

The majority of the interviewees, 80%, said that they have at least one meal a day.  In relation to health, 30% said that they have some problem, such as hypertension, mental illness or AIDS, and 19% take medication.

The research highlighted that the percentage of the population of homeless that self-identifies as black, 30%, is much higher than the national average, which is 6.2%; meanwhile, those who consider themselves white, 29.5%, are well below the corresponding number among all Brazilians, 54%.

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