For Nuno, the streets were his home for just two months. He found the courage to ask for help, because due to several months of unpaid wages, he was deprived of his ability to cope with the increasingly high cost of living. It was at the Association of Albergues Noturnos in Porto – which celebrated its 142nd anniversary this year – that he found shelter.
Without reservations, he talked about a life of work. Since the age of 16, Nuno has lived alone and in Lamego, where he had always lived, in search of a better life.
He worked on a dam and if it hadn’t been for a “back problem”, he might not have ended up on the street.
At the age of 44, he is starting again. On a new path, employment allows for more autonomy. However, Nuno recognises that the road is long and hard and that the cost of housing is the biggest obstacle.
“I intend to receive my first salary and go, but room prices are an issue because they are exorbitant”, he lamented.
Nuno even had a room in mind. But if in the past the maximum amount for rent was around €250, currently the price is between €300 and €380, which he considers “exaggerated” and should require the Government to take measures to stop the rise in rents.
In the comfort of Porto’s Night Hostels, there are more and more “Nunos”, recognises the association’s general director, Carmo Fernandes.
“The story Nuno recounts is one that happens often, in more recent times, more frequently, due to the necessity to help because of the series of losses they accumulated, on the path to integration, it is a deal to process housing solutions because this makes it more difficult and even demotivating, he stated.
At the institution – which was created 142 years ago with the mission of temporally welcoming people at risk of exclusion – 60 percent of the 97 beds in the two accommodation centers are permanently occupied. And the remaining 40 percent – for temporary occupation – are not enough to respond to the requests for help. In 2022, only 30 percent were attended.
In addition to the cost of rooms or any other type of accommodation, the person in charge often highlights that the manager is asked for the amount corresponding to several months, which causes additional difficulty for those who, being able to self-suffice, do not have the economic resources to do so.
“It’s a challenge. It is possible, but it is difficult and becomes increasingly more difficult, so this period of autonomy ends up being longer.”, admitting that the six months offered in the context of temporary accommodation “are not enough”, particularly when it comes to people over 65 years old.
“We live in this reality. People over 65 years old who are with us, shouldn’t be. But there is no other solution, particularly in nursing homes, due to there not being enough vacancies and they are not considered a priority. The same way with mental health”, was stressed.
Without adjusted responses, hostels are sometimes “the only alternative solution”, explained Carmo Fernandes.
Eduardo – who volunteers as a “guardian” in the institution’s art gallery where he himself is the protagonist – is part of this statistic. Like Nuno, the street was his home for two months, after losing his job and family home, following the death of his mother and brother. Having worked as a cinema projectionist, Mr. Eduardo never imagined that at 65 years old, he would have lived for more than 20 years in a borrowed house.
“This is what happens in life. Art is over. Cinema in the city is over. I then got a job at a factory that also went bankrupt and from then on, I never got a job again. I couldn’t choose”, he said.
More than 20 years later, he still has no choice, he admits. If he would “get a room”, but he doesn’t get paid enough for that. With a renovation costing just over €300 and a health problem, it is a mission to have an address other than the one in the Hostels.
“We go to the newspaper and see a room for three hundred or so, four hundred or so, how are we even going to pay for a room?” he asked, lamenting that in the eyes of the Government, all those who for some reason or another are on the street are still “invisible”.
Eduardo states that it is necessary to increase the support given to institutions and people.
Carmo Fernandes agrees that new solutions are needed that will meet the scale and proportion of each of the problems, at a time when the situation is “complexifying”, as a result of the lack of a “long-term” or “definitive” integration response.
“We are willing to fill holes”, he states, highlighting that the topic has led institutions into deep reflection.