“One of the biggest challenges” in Portugal today “is housing: rising rent and house prices”, Catholic relief, development and social service organisation Caritas has warned, adding that “access to housing in Portugal is getting more and more difficult” and proposing instead “that affordable housing programs be created for the most vulnerable people”.

“Proposals in the light of the Church’s social doctrine for a more humane society”

In a detailed report, Caritas Portugal collated the research contained in surveys on the country’s socioeconomic problems carried out by the charity’s Social Observation Unit.

“This is a study that is divided by areas and reveals the responses that successive governments have given to these problems”, explained Filipa Abecasis, a member of the Catholic Network’s International Unit, as Vatican News reported.

Abecasis was referring to the report on unemployment, the housing crisis and education published by the Church aid and relief agency, which was presented March 10 in Lisbon at the São João de Deus Institute during Caritas Week in Portugal, which this year has the theme “Caritas is Love”.

The Caritas reports “seeks to demonstrate, in the research and without creating a furore or taking an aggressive stance – and without being overly critical, but rather constructive – that we have our proposals to present… in the light of the Church’s social thought… for a more humane and more just society”, Caritas Portugal President Eugénio Fonseca explained at the report’s presentation.

“It is possible to eradicate poverty with a better distribution of the existing wealth, but, on a daily basis, the commitment must be everyone’s”, Fonseca added.

The housing emergency

As for the study – Abecasis said – “we observe that the number of unemployed has decreased, but the figure does not refer to long-term job opportunities.

“Likewise, the scourge of the housing emergency continues to be a cause of concern as the increase in rents and sale prices make it increasingly difficult to access housing in Portugal”.

Lack of stable work

That’s why Caritas is proposing the creation of preferential channels for employment, especially for the weakest sectors of the population.

“And not only in big cities like Lisbon and Porto”, Abecasis said.

Likewise, António Santos Luis, a member of Caritas Portugal’s Social Observation Unit, pointed out that the statistics do not always reveal the causes that lead to certain situations of economic disadvantage and social exclusion.

“It’s true that the percentage of people living in poverty and exclusion has decreased, but this has not been due to an improvement in the economic situation.

“In fact, there’s a wide range of people employed with minimum wages as well as many workers in precarious situations”.

Ensuring a decent life

On the other hand, there are a large number of people who cannot find stable work and in this sense, Santos Luis continued, “the problem must be addressed on a case-by-case basis and the answers must be offered locally”.

“Throwing money at the problem isn’t enough: the solution has to be from person to person”, the Caritas expert explained.

“What we have suggested is that issues of health, training and self-esteem are usually what lead to a person giving up” and resigning themselves to social exclusion, Santos Luis continued.

That’s all associated, the Caritas member explained, “with other aspects like local development: finding answers at the local level that can integrate these people, help them overcome the severity they’re facing and to assist them to find their way back to a normal life in society”.

“This is the only way to get to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to guarantee these people a decent life”, Santos Luis concluded.

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Caritas Portugal denounces lack of political will to solve “very serious” housing crisis

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.