ITAQUERA, SÃO PAULO – Around 2,500 families associated to the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) are occupying land near São Paulo’s World Cup stadium, a representative at the site told the Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
A group of young families, some with babies and small children, took over the private land on Saturday and began setting up basic accommodation; numbers have continued to grow ever since.
UPDATE (9 May): A local court gave families 48 hours to leave the site on Wednesday evening, but the MTST appealed and said it would respond to forced eviction ‘with organised resistance’. The eviction order has since been suspended until 23 May pending review.
The MTST said the new residents were “in for the long haul” and setting up toilet facilities, water and eventually a power supply to the site.
The site is just 4km from the city’s new World Cup stadium, the Arena São Paulo, and is giving the authorities cause for concern.
Many of the families are from the local area and have been forced out of their home by rising rent prices linked to World Cup preparations, MTST representative Natalia Szermeta said.
Families are angry that millions of dollars have been found by local authorities in São Paulo, and throughout Brazil, for the World Cup, rather than providing or subsidising housing for low-income families.
Ademilson da Concessão dos Santos, 24, is one of the new residents: “We’re fighting to get ourselves a house to live in. It doesn’t matter if it’s here or somewhere else,” he told AA. “We need a house, but rent is just too expensive around here.”
The shacks and tents being built are basic, but Santos said a water supply had been established at the site. A source of electricity, however, was still lacking.
“Did you see the stadium over there? They’re building that, but people have no houses,” another resident, Jean Carlos, 36, said.
“But these people don’t want to come and stay here for free. They want to get help from the government to pay for housing, and for the government to build apartments here. They want to pay.”
The government said more than 130,000 families in the city have already been registered on its housing programmes, but that it would not go to the site to register families as they are occupying private property.
Evictions are not yet planned, a police source was quoted as saying by the G1 news portal.
The MTST says the site of around 1,000 square metres has been abandoned for over 20 years and that the owner could not be located. The organisation believes the territory could hold as many as 4,000 families.
The Arena São Paulo stadium and the MTST site are located in the eastern São Paulo district of Itaquera, which also gives the stadium its local nickname – the Itaquerão.
The stadium will host the first World Cup game, between Brazil and Croatia, in just over a month’s time.