“Ô Culpa” is a project that began in August 2019 and that has been developing until this day, being the result of an intense living and an immersion of learning that reveal narratives of life, overcoming stories and the most varied adversities that life can offer.
The project is launched intimately in the daily life of an housing occupation in São Paulo where people who don’t have their own homes, or who have lost their homes for some reason, started to live in the same space under certain rules that stand out: the prohibition of the use of drugs, noise at inappropriate times, hygiene in common areas and the prioritization of harmonious living, which, not always, prevails amid so many complications.
The city of São Paulo, the largest urban center in the country, has over 200 housing occupations more than 45,000 families and a huge housing shortage, despite the city’s more than 1,000 abandoned or underused properties. The social struggle for housing is not restricted to Brazilian cities, it is a global dilemma that plagues mainly countries of greater vulnerability.
“Ô Culpa” comes from the conceptual ambiguity as opposed to a sound affinity that exists at the core of the word guilt and the word occupy or occupation (in Portuguese), dealing with a social issue that is a fundamental right. Occupying a space without belonging to it, a house, but homeless. For these families, the future is the uncertainty of an ephemeral residence under a viaduct. Shared guilt, guilt of all of us.
The project is not intended to answer questions or point towards a path. The intrinsic relationship between body and space, dream, identity, intimacy and family, presented in the images, seeks to create uneasiness permeating this gray zone of the materiality of the work and its symbolic representation. It is also part of the project, a documentary with interviews and scenes filmed in the occupation; drawings made by children who were invited to draw a home, a house; and objects exchanged with the residents.
On March 17, after all requests for assistance were denied by the public institutions, the military police and the competent public authorities proceeded with the demolition and removal of families from the area. With the advance warning decreed by the military police department setting the date of the action official, the families, seeking to avoid a violent situation of confrontation, had already left the place. The scene of the demolition and the sounds of the destruction of what was home to many families and now came down, was shocking in the eyes of those who lived there.
A recurring problem with no resolution horizon. The housing shortage in the metropolitan region of São Paulo has broken a record and the State of São Paulo currently has a housing deficit of around 1.8 million households according to figures presented by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV). Since 2011, this deficit has more than doubled in size, growing at an average rate of 10% per a year. The queue for popular housing exceeds 1 million subscribers, but the budget for these constructions has been decreasing exponentially year after year. In 2019 there was a drop of 20% compared to the previous year. The current rent assistance is R$ 400 and lasts for 1 year. Just over 27 thousand families currently receive the benefit at an approximate cost of R$ 130 million per year. In 2019, with a change to the regulation in the Municipal Housing Legislation, where the “high risk of social vulnerability” factor was excluded for the opportunity of receiving aid, the possibility of including families to receive the benefit gets more and more restricted.
With the high rate of unemployment, a precarious public education situation and the catastrophic lack of infrastructure and basic sanitation in the country, the essential conditions necessary for a large part of the population to sustain a rent or the possession of a home become impractical. An adequate housing policy planning to deal with this situation seems increasingly distant amid the political priorities of the city and the country, aggravating the situation for a cyclical problem of greater proportions and in which the result will be present and increasingly evident to the public over the years.