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The children of the Bronx: one step away from the street

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The children of the Bronx: one step away from the street

At the intersection of Cúcuta and La Paz streets, a few steps from La Minorista, a context is hidden in plain sight that few residents of Medellín can even imagine. A place where the coca residue and other dirt is known as bazuko and it is the scourge that imprisons the consciences of many there.

In this small block flooded with smoke and garbage, where the asphalt is particularly dirty and stinking, where fights are the order of the day, any smile shines; especially that of several children running down the sidewalk, distant, oblivious to their reality.

Despite being well dressed, and having an energetic and healthy appearance, they do not seem to be accompanied; and that, in a context like the one that surrounds them, worries outsiders.

“I live here, on the fourth floor,” says Jesymar, pointing towards the interior of a boarding house located on Carrera 54. She is a happy and outgoing eight-year-old girl, it seems that it is difficult for her to stay still and she runs from one side to the other. of the building with a child in his arms. “He’s not my little brother, he’s a little friend from here,” Jesy responds when asked.

Both she and the smallest child she is carrying are as Venezuelan as they are innocent, and now both live in the heart of one of the most vulnerable and dangerous areas of Medellín, along with thousands of street dwellers who find there the drugs that do not help them. let go

The magnifying glass on the problem

Jorge Calle is a photojournalist, he has been relying on photography for years to tell the stories of the streets of his city and the country. In 2019 he joined forces with lawyer Nataly Cartagena to bring to life Everyday Homelessa collective that began with the objective of promoting a change in narratives regarding the street-dwelling population and that has expanded to cover much more.

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While installing a projector and other necessary elements on the sidewalk to play a movie to the children of the Bronx, and to anyone who wants to see it, Jorge comments on how the phenomenon of street living in Medellín has mutated, especially in recent years. years.

“Every time social problems appear in Latin America, new displacements are generated and these types of situations cause the dynamics to change. 10 years ago there was not a single person of Venezuelan origin on the streets, at this moment we can find a very high percentage due to migration,” says Jorge.

The hotels and tenements in the Estación Villa neighborhood in the center, which had remained practically bacchantes for years, are today full of families from the neighboring country. The problem arises when many of the adults in these centers have to go out to ‘search for it’ and the children must be left alone in a place that does not guarantee their safety or adequate development.

With the prostitution area known as El Raudal just two blocks from the entrance gate to their neighborhood, and the largest pot of vice in Medellín centimeters from it, it would be difficult to say that the minors who inhabit this sector are not constantly risk of their rights being violated.

The Everyday Homeless Approach

There are still no official figures on how many people ended up on the streets after the pandemic due to the social problems that this unprecedented situation raised in the population.

One of these problems was the mental health crisis, an issue that became more relevant among public opinion after the COVID-19 quarantines.

Experts agree that mental health directly influences a person’s decision to live on the streets. However, for Jorge, this fact is still not taken into account enough when treating the population and it is necessary for strategies, approaches and solutions to evolve.

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“The current protocols are things that got stuck there, and they continue to work, they are still there, they provide a service, I do not speak badly of the system because it is one that contributes and helps, but it is a very big problem and there is defunding. In any case, the problem is not to finance it, but to find what strategies can be adopted to better treat these people. The issue of mental health is something that is not well considered within the system and through everything we have learned, we have realized that it is a fundamental factor for whether or not people live on the streets.”

Children are another reason why the processes must be reviewed, there are more and more minors exposed, without choosing it, to the context of street living in Medellín, one that is completely inappropriate for their age.

“The most difficult thing about street dwellers is their context and the way in which that context is a breeding ground for more violations of all human rights; and that apart from that, that very vulnerable state to which human beings can reach is generated,” says Jorge.

To address this broad reality, which involves everything from the elderly who has been using for decades, to the child in early childhood who has no idea what is happening around them, Everyday Homeless He concluded that it must be done through collective work and the union of knowledge.

“In this group there are solutions, understandings, knowledge and concerns together. This union of knowledge is what allows us to serve the population. If it were just Nataly and I, as the project initially started, it would still be a social network, not everything it is now,” explains Jorge while the other members of the team distribute popsicles to all those attending the film. Among the heaviness of the night in the Bronx, they all seem light, happy, ready to share words, smiles or something to eat.

The collective named this moment of open-air cinema projection “Cinema on the Street” and seeks to bring a space of security and entertainment to places and people who usually do not enjoy the seventh art. It is just one of the strategies by which Everyday connects with the population it serves and goes beyond welfare.

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Although they know that they cannot change the world alone, they are motivated to positively influence the people they share with, even if it is just for a while; and in this way, perhaps, from time to time mitigate the loneliness that some children and other residents of the Bronx experience.

“The best way we found for this to move forward was with a philosophy and a strategy. The strategy is alliances. Ally ourselves with everyone. Anyone who can do something in the territory, who can contribute to some issue so that the corporation can carry out its mission, which is to try to help change this ecosystem. Alliances are the only thing that makes it possible,” Jorge concludes as he watches the playback of the film.

The presence of him and his family is a small oasis while they remain on the block, but once they leave, the children will leave the movie theater and will be back in the Bronx.

By Valentina Castaño

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