At least 35 homeless immigrants occupying a vacant building in Beja will be temporarily rehoused by the city council in containers on Monday, while they wait for vacancies in other facilities, the mayor revealed today.
Mayor Paulo Arsénio told the Lusa news agency that this was the solution found by the council to respond to the homeless who have found refuge in the old “REFER building”, as it is known, located next to the city’s train station.
“Beja Town Hall’s forecast is that [the temporary accommodation] will run for a month or a little over a month”, until “the people are then distributed to other facilities, where they can have decent conditions”, he stressed.
According to the mayor, these homeless people are expected to be transferred on Monday to temporary accommodation, created with containers installed in the Dr. Flávio dos Santos Stadium, which has been disused for several years and is owned by the council.
This space consists of 11 containers, of which nine are dormitories, one is a shower room and another is a support area, he said.
Paulo Arsénio explained that this rehousing is part of an agreement with the Portuguese Red Cross (CVP) to vacate the “REFER building”, which was leased to this entity by the owner, the public company Infraestruturas de Portugal.
“It was a space that, progressively, over the last few years, has been illegally occupied by migrants and doesn’t have the slightest habitable conditions,” he pointed out, recalling that the CVP had a project for this building that never went ahead.
As part of this agreement with the CVP, the council has undertaken to rehouse the homeless people occupying the building and to clean the interior and exterior space once they have left, the mayor said.
“Action was needed to restore, first and foremost, the dignity of the occupants of that space”, as well as to “make the building safe and not allow it to be occupied, nor the repetition of situations of these characteristics”, he stressed.
As for the homeless people occupying the space, the mayor pointed out that 35 have been identified, mostly Algerians and Moroccans, noting that the municipal services have already detected the presence of two more people.
“Nearly half of the people work every day and tell us that they are in the building as a fallback solution, because they are looking for a house on the market, but no one will rent one to them,” while the other half have no occupation, he said.
Paulo Arsénio noted that, after the evacuation of the building, the CVP took on the responsibility of “closing the space and ensuring its safety, by means of entrapment or any other way it deems valid so as not to allow it to be occupied again”.
Also speaking to Lusa, the president of CVP, António Saraiva, said that when the institution’s current board took office in July 2023, it found the building already vandalized and occupied by homeless people.
“The investment we had made has been lost due to vandalism, theft of materials and the destruction of bathrooms,” António Saraiva lamented, adding that the CVP no longer has the interest or financial conditions to rehabilitate the building.
In this sense, he added, after the building has been fitted out, the institution will give up the lease: “It’s a cost we have without any effect,” he concluded.