Transform broken and discarded umbrellas into sleeping bags for street dwellers. This is the mission of the pedagogue Lúcia Grisel Barreto, 57, from Florianópolis (SC) this winter. Four months ago she started to collect umbrellas and today she almost does not realize: enchanted by the example, the neighbors began to help.Often she comes home and faces old parasols hanging from the gate.
The bags are waterproof, lined with woolen blankets and when folded they look like purses, which can be easily carried around town. Each sleeping bag is made from four umbrellas or six umbrellas. Lucia has already made 40 and a group of former bandeirantes (movement created in the early twentieth century similar to scouting, but initially composed of girls) who joined the cause made 80 others.
In most cases, the teacher distributes them. “I had a remarkable experience. I handed the sleeping bag to a man and he was so happy. I said, ‘I have a house now,'”says Lúcia.
She has worked for 36 years in the social assistance office of Santa Catarina. Contact with homeless people is nothing new: she says she has already taken a homeless woman home.
Olga Emily Montanhini, 42, lived in the streets for ten years. He lived between the corners of Rua Fernando Machado and Hercílio Luz, in downtown Florianópolis. She was a friend of Lucia’s, calling her a mother. Seropositive, with hepatitis C and addicted to crack, was very weak.
“Emilly lived with me four days. Clean, without using anything.That’s when I got her a stay, but that did not help. She was already very sick. When she died, at the end of February, I woke up. I thought, now I have to do for others, “said the pedagogue.
According to the Municipal Guard, there are at least 450 people living on the streets of Florianópolis. The current winter is being considered the most stringent since the city’s weather station was installed 115 years ago. On June 12, for example, the temperature dropped to 0.6ºC, the coldest day of the year in the capital of Santa Catarina.
“Emilly’s life was inside a grocery cart. When it rained, everything would be soaked. I carried a hundred-gallon rubbish sacks for her to cover things up, but the wind carried them or they were picked up by city hall inspectors. I think the idea was born this way, by chance,”says Lucia.
The pedagogue affirms that she has the support of women who have known each other for 40 years in the Bandeirante Movement group and who have recently met again.”One of the slogans of the bandeirantes is to help others. So at the same time we rescued our friendship and resolved to support Lucia’s project,”said Mary Angela Barcelos, a 55-year-old federal civil servant.
Five ex-bandeirantes sew. Another 17 help financially to buy blankets. The group intends to attend to all the homeless in Florianópolis.
“This is a way we found to ease some of these people’s pain,” says Mary.