Manila’s homeless, who are temporarily housed in Catholic schools during the pandemic, will soon go back to the streets as classes are set to open in the coming months.
“We know that we eventually have to leave,” said Jonathan Acosta, a 29-year old homeless who sought shelter in a Manila Catholic school during the lockdown.
“I don’t really know what will happen to us,” he said, adding that he is praying to God “to touch the hearts of people to help us find a new home and start a life anew.”
When the government declared a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic in March, the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation helped homeless people seek shelter in church-run institutions.
Acosta, who has been living in the Paco Catholic School in the past two months, said he is worried about his little daughter when they go back to the streets.
Father Flaviano Villanueva of the Society of the Divine Word congregation, founder of Kalinga, said church people are “doing their best” to look for shelters that can accommodate the homeless.
“We’re appealing to people who could help us with a space once the schools open,” the priest told LiCAS.news.
Father Villanueva said the Kalinga center will continue to “recreate the self image” of street dwellers by programs like alternative learning and skills training.
On Thursday, May 28, the homeless took to the stage in a school in Manila to perform a theatrical play depicting stories of their life.
“This is the first of a kind where street dwellers are actually the one acting and revealing their life stories,” said Father Villanueva.
He said a theater workshop conducted by profession actors and directors for the street dwellers aimed to “animate” the homeless and “let them realize that they, too, have a story to tell.”
“I feel so little whenever a parent warns their kids about me and telling them that I am a thief,” said Jonathan, one of the performers.
He recalled the time when he was arrested for stealing, which he claimed he did not commit.
“I remember thinking ‘It’s hard to be a street dweller. You are never decent in the eyes of those who live better than you do,'” he said.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are about 4.5 million homeless people in the country, three million of whom are in Metro Manila.