Lisbon’s homeless face forced relocation ahead of Papal visit

forced relocation

The homeless population of Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, faces forced relocation ahead of the visit of Pope Francis during World Youth Day 2023 hosted by the city.

Homeless people and others sleeping rough in Almirante Reis Avenue, one of Lisbon’s busiest thoroughfares, were recently given an ultimatum by the city council: vacate the premises by July 12 or face forced removal.

Many homeless individuals affected by this decision believe that the city council’s actions are directly linked to Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Lisbon for the World Youth Day global gathering of young Catholics.

Rita Moreira (pictured), who suffers from poor health, stated “They (the city council) are sweeping the homeless under the rug… That’s what they’re doing to us – they’re hiding us.”

This is not the first instance where homeless people have been displaced due to major Catholic events. In 2015, the Philippine government faced criticism after admitting to temporarily relocating homeless individuals during Pope Francis’ visit.

Ironically, Francis has spoken out for homeless people many times and established the World Day of the Poor in 2016 to bring focus to the challenges this group faces.

However, Lisbon’s city council vehemently denies that its actions are motivated by the Pope’s visit. It claims that the “interventions” are part of ongoing efforts to assist vulnerable populations and direct them towards shelters.

Alternative accommodation “horrible”

Comunidade Vida e Paz, a charity for the homeless, reported that the city council instructed their street team to inform homeless individuals in the Almirante Reis and Regueirao dos Anjos areas about the removal of their tents and belongings.

While the council offered shelter as an alternative, Moreira and others expressed dissatisfaction with the conditions, describing them as “horrible.”

The city council insists that its objective is to provide accommodation solutions for the homeless.

However, Portugal’s People-Animals-Nature (PAN) party has raised concerns about the urgent removal of the tent and belongings and its potential connection to Pope Francis’ visit. PAN sought answers from the city council, but it has yet to respond.

PAN’s leader, Ines Sousa Real, emphasised that concealing homelessness during the World Youth Day event will not solve the country’s poverty problem. She stressed the urgency of implementing measures to address the ongoing housing crisis, which has resulted in many people living on the streets.

Marcio Achega, a 31-year-old construction worker who has been homeless for two years, expressed frustration, stating “They want to clean up (the city’s) face because someone… who is very important will come here. If they want to forcibly remove us because of the Pope, they have to give us a house.”


US News & World Report

CathNews New Zealand

Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , ,