Millions of Brazilians who advanced economically between 2004 to 2014 are once again finding themselves facing the harsh reality of poverty. High unemployment rates, a poor economy and a reduction of federal welfare programs are believed to be contributing to the financial decline.
In the 10 years prior to 2015, high market prices for Brazil's raw materials and an oil discovery fed enough money into government-funded welfare programs to lift an estimated 28.6 million Brazilians out of poverty, The Associated Press reports. That decade was followed by the worst recession in Brazil's history.
The World Bank estimates that between the start of 2016 and the end of 2017, 2.5 million to 3.6 million individuals who rose to lower or middle class during the 'boom' decade will be back below the the Brazilian poverty line of about $44 a month.
Rising unemployment has been linked to the rise in poverty levels. The unemployment rate now sits at 13 percent, an 11-percent increase from 2004.
"I want to leave here, but there is nowhere to go," said 28-year-old Leticia Miranda to The Associated Press. Like many others, Miranda has dealt with the economic crisis by sheltering in an abandoned building.
"I'm applying for jobs and did two interviews," she said. "So far, nothing."
People living in the abandoned buildings are beginning to fight for their right to stay, claiming there are already too many people on the street. One Sao Paulo building is filled with 1,000 tenants who are fighting eviction.
According to The Guardian, an estimated 15,000 people are currently living on the streets of Sao Paulo, which has more than 200,000 vacant buildings. Two charities, The British Catholic charity Cafod and Brazilian charity Apoio, have been trying to get some of those buildings turned into social housing.
The economic recession has even begun to affect children's lunch at school. The city council of Sao Paulo is now looking into the mayor's proposition to begin serving dried pellets at schools, The Associated Press reports.
The pellets, which resemble popcorn, are made of dried leftovers and can be eaten by themselves or mixed with other foods. The city is now examining the nutritional value of the pellets, which the mayor claims could improve the nutrition of the city's poor children.
Several human rights organization have called the pellets degrading. They may also not be necessary; according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, less than 5 percent of Brazilians were considered undernourished in 2015.