1st Phase (1989-1994)
The Street Project sought to address the situation of marginality of children in the street context, opening the way for their integration into the family and community and developed its activity around six subsystems that interact with the child throughout the intervention process (the homeless child, the family, the fleeing community, the community of residence, the intervention team and the support network).
In this first phase, some practices have been implemented. For the first time in Portugal, we had Animadores de Rua (street animators) who went to meet the child (day and night shifts), and through a personalized relationship of affection and companionship, sought to discover new values and frameworks for the construction of a new Life Project.
Equally important in this period was the Escola da Rua – Clube Tejo (“Street School – the Tagus Club”) – action developed with the support of the Ministry of Education that highlighted teachers who were part of the street teams. The objective was to make a privileged contact with the child/youth, meeting the reality (street life), so that they could catch up with school contents and thus motivate them to their reintegration into school.
For those where school was no longer an option, we highlight the importance of the Horizon Programme, which enabled the Professional Training of young people and families, contributing to integration into the labour market.
As a temporary response for the children who wanted to leave the street, but the conditions were not met to return immediately to the family, the Transitional Residence was created.
It was in this first phase that the nature of the activities that were continuously used in the later phases was outlined, both as a way to consolidate the relationship, to provide moments of conviviality, and as a means to develop skills.
As a result of this intervention, the situation of street children in Lisbon changed: more than 600 children left the street, having returned to the family or institutions from which they had fled.
2nd Phase (1995-2000)
Reclaim – Develop – Revalue
This phase is responsible for the current name of the Project – Trabalho com Crianças de Rua Em Família para Crescer (“Working with Street Children to Grow Up”).
During the first phase, it was found that many children who had been taken to their family of origin ended up returning to the street, despite the work of the animators and other professionals.
In order to cut the problem at its roots and prevent the emergence of new cases, the Project set teams in the communities of residence of children/young people who were in the street (Bº 6 May – Damaia, Zona J de Chelas, Bº Olival do Pancas – Pontinha and Patio 208 – Chelas).
It was understood that in order for all the work done with the children to be effective, it would be necessary for the family itself to be involved in the process and to be ready to welcome the child in the best possible way. This led to a work phase involving not only the “children on the street” but also their own families. This work allowed the diagnosis of the real needs but also of the potential of the population. This was the first step towards working together with other institutions and organisations that eventually led to a community development initiative.
It was at this stage of the Project that the figures of the School Animator, Residence Animator and Solidarity Agents appeared – elements of the community itself, with stability and positive references, and for this reason, could establish a privileged relationship with the community.
School Animators emerged to establish the school/community connection and to promote school success, decreasing misfit behaviour and school dropout. The figure of the School Animator was recognized as a cultural mediator (Joint Order Nº 304/98, of 24 April, of the Ministries of Education and Work and Social Solidarity).
Through the connection of the Project with Schools, the project Escola e Comunidades em Movimento (“School and Communities on the Move”) emerged. This partnership aimed at the permanent communication of information and monitoring, the monetization of material and human resources, the establishment of the link between the school and families and their involvement in the performance of extracurricular activities.
We cannot fail to mention the action of two Socio-professional Integration Support Units, which provided a real opportunity for work, job search and vocational training – we refer to the URBAN Program (1) and UNIVA (2).
Throughout the six years of work in the Communities of Residence, there were several strategies used to make“empowerment” viable. We highlight the “Visit of Joy”, which combined the playful with a participatory pedagogy, being a strategy of approach to the family and worked as a stimulus for change.
Other initiatives were the “Mothers’ Club”, which was born from the need to create a specific space to support teenage mothers, and the Mama’s Workshop, a reference and learning space where it was possible to promote the acquisition of relational skills between mother and child.
As an example of the communication with other institutions, the Street Project promoted, in 1997, the constitution of the Network “Build Together”: An informal Network “sustained in commitment and responsibility shared by members” and aimed at achieving a more appropriate coordination of efforts to combat social exclusion of disadvantaged groups.
(1) Employment and Training Advisory Unit
(2) Active Life Insertion Unit
3rd Phase (2001-2009)
Reclaim – Revalue
The start of this phase was marked by profound changes that led the intervention to focus on two major areas. On the one hand, the increasing autonomy of the populations of the Communities of Residence was observed and on the other hand, the mutation of the characteristics of street children was diagnosed.
At this stage, there were practically no children living on the streets. However, a new social context, paedophilia, child prostitution and drug trafficking – the so-called “worst forms of exploitation of child labour” (ILO Convention 182) – have called for a new look and new methods and intervention strategies. Thus, we started to act not only in Lisbon downtown, but also in other areas of the city identified as potential places of concentration of these children and young people and in large shopping areas. This intervention was supported by the protocol established with the Ministry of Labor and Solidarity, under the Plan for the Elimination of the Exploitation of Child Labour (PEETI).
As a result of this partnership (in the year 2000), the Street Project now has a new resource – a Mobile Pedagogical Play Unit, with the aim of overcoming the difficulty that the mobility of the target group represented and helping in the recovery project by the diversity of activities it provides.
In support of the action, the Fix Unit stands out – a meeting point located in the city center, where children and young people could find the team to participate in activities such as computer workshops, carpentry, electricity, visual arts, dramatic expression, photography and music. This place also functioned as an Emergency Center, where children and young people could sleep, one or two nights, whenever it was deemed necessary.
In this phase, the Projeto Rua intensified the dialogue with the partners and had as allies the CPCJs (3) – Commission for the Protection of Children and Youth, the Choices Program (4) and the Atypical Cooperation Agreement (5) for the resolution of the problems of the residence communities target group. Despite continuing to invest in the training of technicians, in information to society in general and in exchanges between the various communities, he focused mainly on the area of Education and Training.
As of 2004, in some communities identified as priority intervention communities, the Ação Aprender na Rua (Learn on the Street Action) began, the aim of which is to prevent and mitigate risk situations of children uncovered by institutional responses and/or in complementarity with existing resources, promoting their healthy occupation and motivating them to attend school. This action lasts until today and has passed through several communities considered as vulnerable.
Under a protocol signed in 2007, between the Ministry of Education/Secondary School D. Dinis and the IAC, the Ação “Educar e Formar para Inserir” (Action “Educate and Form to Include”) was developed.
Based on methodologies adapted on the basis of individual plans and always in the spirit of partnership it was aimed at young people between the ages of 12 and 18, who were either in or out of school and with whom personal, emotional, social, school and professional skills were developed.
For about 4 years, more than 100 certificates were awarded in the 4th, 6th and 9th year courses.
In this period, the Project continued to invigorate the Rede Construir Juntos, which already brought together more than 90 Portuguese institutions to intervene in the field of Childhood/Youth; and extended its scope to ESAN – Rede Europeia de Ação Social e à EFSC – European Federation for Street Children, acquiring, in the latter, the status of privileged interlocutor with PALOP – Portuguese-speaking African countries, with a special focus on Cape Verde and Mozambique.
In short, as methodologies, actions and innovative projects stand out in this phase: the Mobile Playful-Pedagogical Unit, the Emergency Center, the Ação Aprender na Rua, the Intervenção em Modelo Integrado (Intervention in Integrated Model) and the Projeto Educar e Formar para Inserir.
(3) These are official non-judicial institutions with functional autonomy, which aim to promote the Rights of Children and Youth and prevent or end situations that may affect their safety, health, training, education or integral development.
(4) National Government Programme, established in 2001, promoted by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and integrated into the High Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue – ACIDI, IP, whose mission is to promote the social inclusion of children and young people from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds, aiming at equal opportunities and strengthening social cohesion.
(5) Cooperation Agreement with the District Social Security Centers, through which they guarantee the direct concession of supply, equipment and services to the population, or Management Agreements, through which they assume the management of services and equipment belonging to the State (Own).
4th Phase (2010-2015)
Reclaim – Prevent – Revalue
In this phase, the Projeto Rua presents a greater heterogeneity at the level of the target group, with children and young people in different stages of social and personal development and, consequently, the need to adjust strategies, in order to build their life project.
A new social context leads us to talk about different problems, such as the disappearance and sexual exploitation of children and trafficking in human beings. Thus, we can say that as the project progressed, the target group was asking for a differentiated dynamic.
The Projeto Rua team had to make adaptations to cover more areas of intervention. The creation of Youth Development and Inclusion Centres – CDIJ (Eastern and Central) – aims to optimise responses that allow the recovery of adolescents and young people with disruptive/deviant behaviors, promoting skills conducive to building a healthy life project. The main focus is the intervention among children/young people who are missing and/or sexually exploited, with a special focus on those who are fleeing from home or the institution.
In the school year 2012/2014, the Project was the beneficiary of the PAQPIEF – Support and Qualification Programme of the PIEF Measure, resulting in the management of several PIEF classes, whose purpose was to promote the social inclusion of children and young people through the creation of integrated responses, including socio-educational and training, to prevent and combat school dropout and failure, promoting the fulfilment of compulsory schooling and school and professional certification.
Also noteworthy is the Protocol with the DGRSP – General Directorate of Reintegration and Prison Services, signed in 2012, which aims at individual monitoring and psychological care in the scope of compliance with educational measures of social reintegration.
It focused on the prevention and diagnosis of communities at risk and, in parallel to the intervention already developed in the City Hall, a similar intervention was also initiated in the neighborhood Alfredo Bensaúde, meeting a number of needs in terms of the integration of children and young people into their communities.
Its methodological principle is to work in partnership, to share best practices leading to integrated intervention. As such, it is up to the team to develop pedagogical actions of prevention and promotion of personal and social skills of children and young people with special focus on the development of interpersonal relationship, participation and cooperation, through the Ação “Aprender na Rua” and using the Mobile Playful-Pedagogical Unit.
Since 2016 we have reiterated the commitment to contribute to reducing the number of children and young people at risk and or in danger, promoting their socio-family reintegration. The Projeto Rua continues to consider relevant maintenance of its intervention structure despite the urgent need to reorganise some thematic cross-cutting areas of intervention in order to ensure financial sustainability, resource efficiency and contribution to combat poverty and social exclusion in a more effective way.
At this stage, the area of Education/Training was assuming special importance and some projects have already been developed in this sense.
In the 2016/2017 school year, through the Protocol with the Fonseca Benevides Secondary School, the Distance Learning program was developed, with the aim of promoting continuity and increased schooling for a group of 11 girls in the neighborhood Dr. Alfredo Bensaúde.
In December 2019, with the support of the City Council of Lisbon (among other entities) a new Mobile Playful – Pedagogical Unit was inaugurated, which allows the development of new activities with children and young people, both in community context, street or in schools.
In 2020, we are investing in the revitalization (along similar lines) of the Action Educating and Training to Insert, as a multiple and flexible qualification response, through an Inter-ministerial Protocol – Justice, Education and Solidarity and Social Security.
In a coordinated work of the various teams, currently the Projeto Rua remains structured in two levels of intervention – Reclaim and Prevent.
With a methodology focused on Education/Training, using the playful as a pedagogical assistant, through a personalized relationship, in which affect and technique are combined, using multidisciplinary teams and reinforcing the work in partnership, The Street Project can transform real obstacles into possible utopias.