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There are no official figures, but begging and homeless people are on the rise in various sectors of Guayaquil

By hollisterclothingoutlet 24/04/2022 382 Views

Hundreds of homeless wander the streets, avenues and parks of Guayaquil. They are young men, women with children in their arms, pregnant women, elderly people. There are Ecuadorians and foreigners, especially Venezuelans. Some are under the influence of some drug or are consumers, there are also people with mental problems, disoriented, without direction. They ask for money at traffic lights, others ask for food in restaurants and a part of them live under overpasses, in empty lots or on the sidewalks. No hay cifras oficiales, pero mendicidad y personas en situación de calle van en aumento en diversos sectores de Guayaquil No hay cifras oficiales, pero mendicidad y personas en situación de calle van en aumento en diversos sectores de Guayaquil

Although it is a problem that has been going on for years, the pandemic and Venezuelan migration have made them more visible on the streets, dozens on every corner. Those who live on the streets have few clothes, old mattresses, disposable plates and suitcases. They have built shacks with cardboard.

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In Guayaquil there are more than a hundred places where the presence of beggars and homeless people is evident. For example, on Orellana Avenue they are at traffic lights and under bridges, such as the one diagonal to Mall del Sol and at the entrance to La Garzota; They appear all day, mixing with vendors at the entrance to Alborada, in front of the Teniente Hugo Ortiz school, at three traffic lights in Las Orquídeas, by the Zonal Government, by the Claro building and near the San Marino shopping center. Ten sites in a single avenue.

The same happens in the avenue of the Americas, on the road to Daule, in the Tanca Marengo and others in the north; Portete, July 25, Domingo Comín, November 4, the 39, the 29 and many others in the south and southwest. And they are in the center.

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Nicole O., 20, is eight months pregnant and with her 2-year-old child asks for money at a traffic light on Orellana, on Kennedy. Denny Rizo, a 25-year-old Venezuelan woman, begs along with her mentally retarded son on an overpass in Alborada. She also helps herself by selling candy; Paúl, a 38-year-old deaf-mute who was diagnosed with HIV, spent the night outside the cemetery; Carlos, Johnatan and a friend they call Careloco live under a bridge on the road to Daule.

In several places they have become well-known neighbors, but they are frowned upon; some are considered a danger. But beggars and homeless people survive in the midst of helplessness not only from the State, but also from their relatives, according to Dr. Violeta Sagñay, director of the Guayaquil Municipality's A Future without Drugs program.

She warns that these people are in danger. “There is a latent risk in the streets. There is a migrant sleeping next to a homeless man who has hallucinations; or a homeless person who is next to a consumer who gives him the drug or who uses him to sell drugs”, points out the professional, who points out that the most helpless are those elderly or people with mental problems who have been abandoned by their family, in some cases to seize their assets or collect the bonus.

There is no figure on the number of people who are homeless and homeless. The Public Company for Development, Social Action and Education (DASE), which deals with these issues on behalf of the Municipality of Guayaquil, says that there is no current estimate of the number of people who beg and spend the night on the streets, but points out that in the In 2017, a figure of 3,000 was handled, provided by the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES).

No hay cifras oficiales, pero mendicidad y personas en situación de calle van en aumento en diversos sectores de Guayaquil

This last entity, in a response sent to this newspaper this Friday, states: “Regarding begging and homeless people in the country, there is no survey that reveals data on this problem; however, with the implementation of the National Strategy for the Prevention, Care and Protection of People in a Situation of Begging, Street Inhabitants and other Rights Violations carried out in 2020, 2,820 people could be identified in this problem.

The head of the MIES, Mae Montaño, told this newspaper last week that the number of beggars has grown in Ecuador and that work must be done to update the data of people living on the streets.

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These latest data are from the entire country, but they fall short. President Guillermo Lasso admitted this week, in an interview with this newspaper, that there is no precise figure.

The MIES and the DASE refer to some care plans for this dispossessed sector. For example, the MIES cites that in 2021 it provides care to 120 homeless people in Guayaquil, through the signing of service provision agreements for cases of homeless people in a situation of indigence, substance use, begging, abandonment, emergency care, psychiatric cases, with an age range between 18 and 75 years.

But the inhabitants of the street do not know about these plans. They complain that the Police and other organizations only carry out operations to remove them. Dr. Sagñay points out: “As if it were to fumigate them, as if they were a plague, that is how they refer to them. So we want the complete work, stabilize them clinically, reintegrate their family, although there are families that do not want to accept them, see what they do.

The reality is felt in the streets. At least fifteen families spend the night in the traffic distributor diagonal to the bus terminal.

Begging, life option of dozens of Venezuelans in Guayaquil

José S., a Venezuelan, explains that it is hard to live on the streets because sometimes people insult them or sting their water at the gas station where they go to get supplies. He lives under the bridge with his wife and his 3-year-old son. His wife lost her first baby in Venezuela and must take medication to recover, and since there are none in her country, she begs the authorities to help them with necessary resources and medicines.

The dwellers under the overpass support each other. To cook their food they built a small kitchen where they prepare rice with fried eggs every day to survive. They even suffer what they call injustice from the police, because they take away their belongings.

Sedrián P., Venezuelan, has been in Ecuador for three months. He states that since he lives on the bridge, the police always take his things away from him and he has to fight not to let his only implements be taken away. He demands more respect from the gendarmes.

When it gets dark it is an odyssey for them, because when they are asleep they have endured robberies by people in a state of drug addiction who pass through the bridge. Currently, they each have to take turns to watch that nothing happens at night.

“I worry about my son because I am afraid that he will be stolen or hurt,” says José.

With a swollen eye, thirsty and crying is Eli C., a Venezuelan citizen who recounts that due to his dirty clothing he suffered blows from the authorities, because before getting on the Metrovía he had just finished doing a small job as a mechanic. He got up unkempt, smelly and when he sat down next to a woman, she accused him of wanting to rob her and called the police. The gendarmes arrived at the scene, threw him to the ground and kicked him. "They, the ones who beat me, ignored the pain he was feeling and suffering," he says.

What the authorities say

The Municipality, through the Public Company for Development, Social Action and Education (DASE), and the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) responded to a questionnaire sent by this newspaper and ensure that they address the issues of begging and people in street situation.

In the case of the DASE, it indicates that it carries out operations in sectors where the presence of homeless people is reported. “We offer them help to be referred to a shelter or foundation with which we have an agreement, according to their need. Before referral, a medical evaluation is carried out at the Bicentennial hospital, which includes a COVID-19 test and, if necessary, hospitalization for treatment prior to referral, ”he notes.

He clarifies that the DASE assists homeless people who have reached their legal age. In the case of minors, the National Police is in charge. “When we have registered cases of minors begging or working, it is reported to the MIES and to the Police,” he indicates.

He adds that the operations are to offer people shelter or involve them in some municipal program according to the situation of each one, for example, the program A Future without Drugs.

"We, from the DASE, convened various headquarters and directorates of the Municipality of Guayaquil, government organizations such as MIES, national aid organizations (Refugio RESA and Hogar de Cristo) and international aid organizations (International Organization for Migration in Ecuador), for the cases of human mobility. Therefore, all our operations are always carried out with empathy for the cases that we know we can find”, he indicates.

He adds that since December 2020, the first municipal shelter, Volver a Soñar, has been operating, which receives homeless people and works on the family and work reintegration of the beneficiaries. In addition, it works in agreement with Refugio RESA, who receive people in a situation of the street and human mobility, and the shelter Un Techo para el Camino, which welcomes people in a situation of human mobility.

The MIES points out that in the context of the health emergency, in coordination with the COE (Emergency Operations Committee), decentralized autonomous governments (GAD), public and private institutions, and non-governmental organizations, they implemented 33 temporary pop-up shelters to house and care for some 780 people living on the street, begging, human mobility and people diagnosed with COVID-19 who needed mandatory preventive isolation.

“The objective of these shelters was to have a place of accommodation, care and protection for people who did not have a place to live and to house people who did not have a place to spend quarantine or mandatory isolation,” he explains.

The MIES highlights, pointing out articles of law, that care is also the responsibility of autonomous governments, prefectures, municipalities and parish councils.

It adds that since 2021 the Service for Street Inhabitants has been implemented for 120 users, with two care units located in the center and south of the city of Guayaquil that offer food, lodging, social and psychological care.

Observation and boarding operations are carried out on a fortnightly basis together with the organizations that sign agreements and the National Police, Unipen, Cantonal Boards for the Integral Protection of Rights and the Ministry of Labor, for an adequate registry of people in situations of begging, child labor and homeless people for referral to the most convenient service, he explains.

He indicates efforts with the Ministry of Health for the vaccination of these people. It also cites three projects that are being executed in Zone 8 (Guayaquil, Durán and Samborondón). The eradication of child labor, with an investment of $1,188,025 with 1,140 beneficiaries; progressive eradication of begging, which invests $225,672 and registers 240 beneficiaries; and care for homeless people, with a budget of $500,884 and coverage for 120 people.

It adds that the services are directed to places considered to be of greater economic and social risk and vulnerability, which have been detected as sending and receiving areas for the population in a situation of begging.

Regarding shelters, the MIES also mentions the two RESA centers mentioned by the DASE. (I)

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