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Joe Nobody

 Boca de Rua (Brazil) 14 May 2019

(Originally published: 04/2010) “People can dress up, make themselves look pretty, comb their hair, put make-up on, follow the latest fashion, get rid of lice, brush their teeth… But this all is of little use without good manners.” One of Brazil’s homeless youth shares her take on identity with street paper Boca de Rua. From clothes to attitude to paperwork, she tells us how difficult life is when you don’t have a home or an ID card. (739 words) - By One of Brazil’s homeless youth

Boca de Rua

Courtesy of Boca de Rua

Unique, different, special

Respect is stylish. Good manners equal good looks. People can dress up, make themselves look pretty, comb their hair, put make-up on, follow the latest fashion, get rid of lice, brush their teeth… But this all is of little use without good manners. Material wealth is not necessary. A chic person sits straight, speaks calmly, doesn't swear, shout or call others names. A chic person is considerate and compassionate. The clothes don't have to be new or expensive. Just clean, of the right size, not scruffy. A chic person might wear trousers so old she doesn't remember their original colour. The clothes scream: "We don't want to be a tattoo". Putting on a carnival-like attire is not very aesthetic. The most important thing is to dress according to one's own style. Each to their own taste. Every person is unique, different, special. A key to cool style is creativity, not TV programmes. And what's for being good-looking on the outside and ugly inside?


Identity without a piece of paper

Whenever an ID card is lost, its owner usually feels desperate. However, the owner of the card does not lose identity, because identity is not a piece of paper. The identity is made of meat, bones and thoughts. Each person has their own identity made up of their individual characteristics.

Some people are nice, others aren't. Some people are good, others are bad or somewhere in between. Some think a lot, some think little. Some people like carnival, sweets, novels, magazines and films or only some of these things, or none of them. Some people go to college, some can't read. However, the latter category is also important for society, because even a person that can't read understands what is happening in the world. There are people who are raised by their parents and people who are raised by others.

Education is important in order to change people to better. The best things in life are learned through education - whether it is the institutionalized education received at school or the knowledge we learn from our parents, older siblings, from uncles and aunties and from those who know things. Even the people that can't write have something to teach children, because they know how the world works.


Joe Nobody

For those who live on the street it's not easy to have documents. You have no motivation to get them: there is a little use of work ID for those who don't have a job. On the top of that, one doesn't know how to go about getting the documents and you can't call for information either because you don't have a phone. Every document - a national identity card, voters ID, work permission - is issued at a different place. At the same time, there is no money for photos or taxes. But even those who live on streets need documents. Without the resident registration form, for example, almost all health centres will deny you a treatment. You can't vote, get a prescription or a preservative, to open a bank account. Apart from being homeless, you also lose your rights, you become Joe Nobody, and this isn't right. Everybody is Joe Somebody.


Free to fly

My identity at the age of six: I used to play with my sister at home, take a rain-shower with soap, walk in the garden, walk the stairs. Identity: a happy girl, an extrovert and normal kid.

At the age of 12 I was already a pre-adolescent in my fifth year and I started to date my class-mates, to skive and lie to my mum. Identity: a teenage rebel.

When I was 18 I was hospitalized in Hospital Espirita to get rid of my drug addiction and at the moment I attend a Centre for Psychosocial Care to be completely resistant to crack.

Today I am much more considerate of my mother; I listen to her and understand how difficult it was for her to bring me up. I think before I speak. Identity: understanding and calm.

My resolutions for 2010: to continue participating in Boca de Rua and occupational groups and even to go back to school. Identity: Free to fly, because an addict lives trapped in a self-constructed cage.


"There are people with identity,
Who do not have an ID.
There are people who do have an ID
but keep changing their identity,
copying others and pretending to be
what they aren't. "



By One of Brazil's homeless youth

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