SÃO PAULO, Brazil — When Zezito Alves and hundreds of families from São Paulo, Brazil’s Homeless Workers Movement occupied a vacant lot in the city’s east end neighborhood of Itaquera on the night of May 2, they wanted just one thing.
“All we want is proper housing,” Zezito says, two weeks later, as he walks through the narrow footpaths that run between the rows of makeshift tents made of garbage-bag plastic and two-by-fours.
The group of several hundred families has since grown to an estimated 5,000, with each family’s tent reserving a space representative of the land where they hope to build their permanent homes. For now, they sleep directly on the ground—some are lucky enough to have an old mattress to lie on—and share a water source close to the road so they can shower and wash clothes and dishes. The community has even been divided into neighborhood-like clusters, with each tent marked with a letter representing its group and numbers identifying individual homes.
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By Jill Langlois
Originally published on Fortune.com on June 10, 2014.