“It’s a horrible life. You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. Any money you can get goes on crack,” says Felipa Drumont.
Drumont is 26, trans, homeless and addicted to crack. For the last four years, she has lived on the streets of an area of central São Paulo that has become infamous: Cracolândia, literally “Crackland”.
Hundreds - People - Middle - Street - Blankets
Here, hundreds of people sit in the middle of the street, wrapped in blankets, and smoke crack openly. Others wander, wild eyed, looking for tin cans and other recyclables to sell. Most are skinny and gaunt, faces contorted from years of drug abuse. There is garbage everywhere and a thick smell of body odour.
Police patrol the perimeter, just metres away. They keep an eye on things but don’t intervene with the drug-taking or dealing. Instead, they mostly watch for other crimes, such as robbery. Municipal officers and NGO workers hover nearby.
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Even more surprisingly, on weekdays, there are also workers with backpacks and suited office types, who scurry past on the opposite side of the street. Despite being a scene of intense urban degradation, Crackland in fact sits on prime real estate.
Luz - City - Train - Station - Style
It is next to Luz, the city’s biggest and busiest train station. Less than 100m away is a neoclassical style concert hall that last year hosted a performance by American jazz legend Herbie Hancock. There are private technical colleges nearby, and a leisure centre. The office of South America’s biggest newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, known sometimes as the New York Times of Brazil, is a few blocks away.
None of it makes much difference to the addicts. Some exchange jokes or handshakes with each other, but most just look bewildered and lost.
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