São Paulo – In its latest attempt to take drug addicts away from the so-called “Cracolândia” (“crackland”, an old inner-city area in São Paulo where crack cocaine use is a common sight), the local government is departing from traditional methods – rather than imposing compulsory care, crack users are persuaded to join an initiative called “De Braços Abertos” (“Open Arms”).
Under the program, more than 80 crack users have been hired to clean up streets, sidewalks and squares working for four hours a day. They have been staying at nearby hotels since Wednesday (Jan. 15) and started working on Thursday (16). But many others are still left wandering in the surroundings.
The local government is paying each participant around $300 a month to cover food and stay costs, plus $6.33 per workday. According to Mayor Fernando Haddad, this remuneration the key to the initiative: “These people are working so they can buy themselves shoes, socks, toothpaste, a haircut – basic items that every person has the right to.”
The mayor talked to some addicts. One of them, Márcio Alan, told him: “I haven't taken drugs for the last couple of days. With some money in my pocket, I was able to take a rest, get a better night's sleep, shower, wash up. And I'm earning my bread honestly.”
Another one, Rogério Araújo Nascimento, conceded that the smell of the drug in Cracolândia makes rehabilitation harder, but he feels motivated by the fact that all of them are trying to overcome addiction together: “Besides, working takes my mind off the drugs.”
Haddad says the effects of the initiative are already beginning to be felt: “In only a couple of days, the area already looks different, and we have successfully integrated them [the addicts] into a work front and arranged medical care.”
Translated by Mayra Borges
Fonte: Crack addicts join work program in São Paulo