“I saw many people die in the street, alone and sad, then I thought 'I do not want to end up like that,'” confesses Marcos Maidana who was homeless from age 19 until age 30. During that time, the asphalt became his mattress: slept outdoors in different neighborhoods of the city of Buenos Aires, in squares, train stations or where the night found it. “I was lost and I was so sad that I could not take a minute without drugging myself,” recalls the Salta man who hit bottom and managed to transform his life three years ago when, thanks to the work of the Lumen Cor Foundation, he felt “accompanied for the first time”.
Marcos (33) is one of more than 100 people that this organization that provides comprehensive and interdisciplinary assistance to those who are in the street, managed to accompany, help to get a stable job, a decent place to live and regain the link with their family.
Jorge Vega (40) founded Lumen Cor in 2014. Prior to that, he was a volunteer of the Nights of Charity, an initiative that emerged from different Buenos Aires parishes, which aims to bring a plate of hot food to people in street situations. . But he wanted to take another step. “To be able to solve a multi-causal problem, we had to approach it from an integral and long-term perspective”, explains Jorge. Thus, it developed a model based on social assistance, treatment of health and legal issues through a multidisciplinary team of professionals, who monitor cases and provide “body to body” accompaniment.
Today they have 70 own volunteers, who articulate with those who have the 64 centers of the Nights of Charity. On the street, it is they who make the initial contact with people (they have relieved 900 cases). Then, they are referred to one of the 13 interdisciplinary groups of the NGO -which they call Innkeepers- and there a record is created about the needs and characteristics of the case. The team prepares a first diagnosis and begins to work for reintegration and containment, with follow-up and periodic meetings to monitor each situation.
Many times, before going to sleep, Marcos cries of happiness thinking of his present; He knows the effort it took to get here. “At ten I was already drinking alcohol and at 12 I had realized that my life was a disaster,” he says trying to put together the puzzle of his story, marked by addiction to all kinds of drugs and loneliness. For fear of becoming a bad example for his eight brothers he left his native province and arrived in Buenos Aires, excited to find work and change his luck.
The first months he settled in the villa 1-11-14, of Bajo Flores, but soon the addiction pushed him to the streets of the City, where at present 4394 people live and sleep, according to the First Popular Census made recently by more of 40 social organizations, with the support of the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Ombudsman's Office and the General Audit Office. There they were searched for to survive making changa, cartoneando, taking care of cars, doing masonry work and assembling the fair of San Telmo. Meanwhile, he fought to leave drugs behind and, from time to time, took refuge in some church to pray and find a moment of peace.
Prop up the link
It was that desire that brought Marcos closer to the groups of La Noche de la Caridad, and there he met Jorge. At first he distrusted the volunteers, but little by little, with insistence and patience, they gained their trust.
“It's like the drop that pierces the stone, the street is the result of an emotional wound and a psychological problem, so it's not enough to have a plate of food or a housing solution.” The desire to change arises when there is a transformation inside and that is achieved through the link we generate, “says the founder of the NGO.
“When you're on the street, what you need the least is a sandwich or food, that's what you get, what you most need is affection, someone who is interested in you, someone who listens to you,” says Marcos, convinced. The lack went by another side. Precisely, the accompaniment and focus on the emotional is what characterizes the work of Lumen Cor: they seek to restore the confidence of men and women who lost it and who have a hard time having it again.
“Vulnerability is so great that many times they fall again, sometimes they are recurrent because many have addictions or mental health problems, which is why monitoring is so necessary,” says Jorge, pointing out that needs are not only material. “The most difficult thing – he adds – is to work on frustration and trace relapses.” Remember the day, after more than a year of having met him, when Marcos put his hand in his pocket and, without turning, gave him the drug that was on him. That is how they helped him to enter the therapeutic community Cenacolo, located in Villa Rosa, in Pilar, to treat his addiction, which he left almost two months ago.
Marcos currently works doing rural tasks in a field on the outskirts of the city, where he travels every day from his home he rents in villa 31 and has two big dreams: develop a venture to make raw leather crafts such as wallets and belts and, also, help Jorge with a new project of the foundation. They have the idea of building urban houses for the reintegration of people in a street situation, where in addition to a roof and food, they can provide them with an integral accompaniment and the opportunity to get involved in artistic, sporting activities and participate in La Noches de la Caridad for rescue others.
The Lumen Cor model
- Multidisciplinary work: The accompaniment of an interdisciplinary team composed of psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, social workers, lawyers, therapeutic companions and occupational therapists is fundamental.
- Long-term look: Beyond material needs, they maintain that there is a basic problem that is spiritual and psychological. Therefore, through dialogue they try to understand the causes to understand what happened in the family, if there is a problem of addictions or mental health.
- Tracing: The key is to insist and be present, since the vulnerability of people living on the street often causes them to fall again, which is why permanent monitoring is important.
- Generate a link: Volunteers seek to create a relationship of trust that is fertile ground for personal transformation. They organize meetings with people in street situations outside the scope of the foundation, such as outings and meals in restaurants, integrating them into their lives.
- Joint: They work in cooperation with Cáritas, La Noche de la Caridad and private and public organizations such as Sedronar.
- Accompaniment melee: Volunteers are available 24 hours a day to assist people on the street.
Ways to collaborate and contact
To collaborate with the urban houses project or join as a volunteer you can write to [email protected];
The cold arrived, help yourself to help
The days of intense cold have already begun. Find out what other organizations, besides Lumen Cor, help people on the street.
More than 60 volunteers visit different neighborhoods of the city of Buenos Aires (Balvanera, Flores, Agronomía, Almagro, Caballito and Monserrat) to ensure a plate of food to the people who need it most. In addition, they provide elements of personal hygiene and help them in other specific requirements such as loading the SUBE, buying diapers and medicines, or accompanying them during medical visits.
Since 2009, the volunteers of the organization carry out Night Tours with a plate of hot food and shelter for people in street situations. The tours are made in CABA, GBA, Luján, La Plata, Mar del Plata, Rosario, Cordoba, Tucumán, Salta, Jujuy, Resistencia, Posadas, San Juan, Mendoza and Neuquén.
Among the different projects that the organization has, are the Solidarity Tours, an initiative that seeks to improve the quality of life of people living on the streets in the most vulnerable areas of the City, the western zone of Buenos Aires and Salta. In addition, the volunteers offer support, containment and organize activities for the little ones.
The project was born in 2015, in Tucumán, and allows anyone to donate food for the people who need it the most. The social cooler is loaded every morning with what was left prepared the night before and, throughout the day, continues to recharge and its content is available to anyone who needs it until 1 the next morning.
This year, Red Solidaria launched for the eighth consecutive year the project Cold Zero, a campaign aimed at helping and accompanying people who are in a street situation. To know more, you can contact yourself through your
Facebook page or phone 155311774.