Social Issues

A life on wheels for São Paulo’s urban nomads

By Nayara Batschke

São Paulo, May 10 (EFE).- A pair of trucks, a mobile home and a school bus are parked on a street near one of Sao Paulo’s busiest subway stations. But these vehicles do not belong to commuters — their owners are Brazilians who lost everything in the 2015 economic crisis and must live out of their vehicles as urban nomads.

Unlike the Oscar-winning drama ‘Nomadland’ that tells the story of a woman living as a van-dwelling nomad and moving between US cities after she loses her job and home in the Great Recession, these Brazilian nomads travel within the sprawling city’s neighborhoods in search of small menial jobs and a safe place to sleep.

“We live here, then there, then there. We have to leave when things don’t go well. Sometimes there are neighbors who don’t want us around, so we leave,” tells Efe Geraldo Pereira, who lives with his wife in a small van or bus.

The vehicle became the 60-year-old’s home when he lost his job as a bricklayer, was abandoned by his former wife, and his children moved to another state.

It was 2015 when Brazil’s economy entered a recession, which has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“At that time, I was walking the streets pushing a cart, I was working in recycling. But it didn’t work anymore, so I decided to buy this red kombi and live in it because I felt it is safer,” Pereira says.

He sells fruit outside the subway station to scrape together a living, but the spread of the virus and closure of non-essential businesses has forced him to survive mainly on donations.

Inside his van, food, utensils, clothes, and work items are neatly organized around a makeshift bed.

He admits that a life on wheels is a daily challenge, as nomads have to deal with insecurity, prejudice from neighbors, as well as encountering difficulties cooking or showering.

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