Young Catholics in Brentwood have taken part in a global campaign which aims to stop the eviction of more than 200 families living in an abandoned hotel in the centre of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The group from Brentwood Catholic Youth Services have been standing in solidarity with those at risk of eviction in Brazil by simulating the act of building a house, only for it to be destroyed - a close parallel to what those in Sao Paulo face.
Chris Burkette, who organised the event with the Brentwood Catholic Youth society, said: "The reactions were ones of shock, disbelief and a great sense of empathy with the residents of Maua, in Sao Paulo. It gave them a real desire to make a difference as young people and to learn more."
Once a trendy hotel, the Maua Building in the centre of Sao Paulo stood empty for 17 years until 2007, when 237 working families moved in. They lovingly renovated the building and for the last ten years have called it home. Whereas once the building was squalid, it is now home to a thriving community, providing a social use and revitalising an otherwise derelict area in the city centre. Ever since they moved in the families have been trying to win the legal rights to their home, asking for the authorities to acquire the building and convert it into social housing for low income families.
Far from being a radical claim, this is a move permitted under Brazilian law, which states that all properties must fulfil a social purpose. This is especially pertinent in Sao Paulo; poor families are unable to afford market rents, yet in the city centre there are hundreds of abandoned buildings.
Despite what is stated in law, the families in the building face eviction on the 21st November. Should the eviction go ahead, almost 1,000 people, including 200 children, would be forced onto the street. All legal routes have been exhausted and so far local authorities have provided no contingency plan for where the families, many with young children, would be rehoused.
Organiser, Chris Burkette, said: "I think the situation is devastating. The community has worked so hard to renovate the area and now that it's so much better than it was before, the government is trying to evict them. I can barely imagine how terrible it is for the families.
"Young people need to know about stories like this and act, as they will be the ones leading the fight against injustice in the future. Following the event many of them went on to sign the petition and spread the word."
People across Brentwood have begun to follow the young people's precedent and respond to this request, signing the petition that has been launched to try and halt the eviction and taking photographs of themselves with signs stating #ficamaua. The petition asks that the Brazilian authorities suspend the eviction and negotiate a fair, long-term solution for the families living in the Maua.
Add your name to the petition to stop the eviction at: https://e-activist.com/page/14132/petition/1
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