I LIVE IN DOWN TOWN

>I LIVE IN DOWN TOWN - CARTOGRAFIA DI BUCAREST
Romania has a population of about 22.5 million inhabitants (24% of them are underage), which is in steady decline due to emigration to other countries and the increase of infant mortality (about 20 per thousand). In 1989, after the fall of the Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime, Romania has started a difficult march towards the democracy and market economy. In November 1996, with the election of President Constantinescu, some important reforms were initiated, reforms which, the next leader Iliescu (a former neo-communist head of the country between 1990 and 1996 and then reelected in 2000) tried to carry on aiming to bring Romania into the European Union.
Despite the lately progress, the country is, socially and economically, still in a situation of crisis. The life of a large class of the population is on the verge of subsistence. In particular the children are living in severe difficulties: the unemployment and the disappearance of the socialist-era’s welfare system have heavily penalized the families with dependent children, increasing - especially in the past years - cases of neglect, abuse, mistreatment and child labor. Orphanages and institutions for minors have not received for a long time an adequate funding and support from the state. In this situation, thousands of children and young people have dramatically chose the street life, especially in the Capital.

The Government has surveyed currently the number of street children up to 800, a delicate and discordant fact, generated by the granting of documents also to the “no fixed abode” residents of Bucharest in order to significantly reduce the official number of homeless and, in this way, allowing the Romania’s entry into the European Community. Beyond to the typical causes, poverty and family breakdown, since 2000 the authorities’ decision to return to its rightful owners the real estate nationalized during the Communism period, had strongly affected this phenomenon. Many families from Bucharest have lost their homes and they have not been able to pay the new rents, which have been increased of the 80% as a result of the liberalization of the market property. At the same time many activities have failed and the “street life” phenomenon has changed its characteristics: today many homeless kids live no longer on the street but within former restaurants, gyms, private hospitals, hotels and shops that have been abandoned. The western newspapers have often given the incorrect information that the homeless kids of Bucharest live in drains or sewers, to leverage on the sub-human conditions of living underground. Actually we’re talking about the underground channels of the buildings which were built during the Causescu’s regime, inside of which large hot water pipes pass, pipes which, through the district heating, offer heat to the buildings and also to the underground environment.
The channels are dark and inhospitable, with highs ranging from 5 to 20 meters, developed in lengths up to 50 meters. The temperature inside touches 50 centigrade degrees, often causing fires and condensation phenomena due to the strong temperature rage between the channels and the outside temperature. Over the past ten years there was also a massive return of heroin, which is supplanting the consumption of the Aurolac and Bronzolac (solvent used as a thermal insulator, and in the same time a typical drug used by the street children, most commonly called “glue”).
The spread of heroin has made much more difficult the recovery process of the street children, process initiated by the numerous associations working in Bucharest, particularly since there is neither free nor appropriate medical care support structures. For about a year a new drug called “Pure “ has been spread. This drug is produced by a company named Magic, is legally distributed as fertilizer for decorative plants and flowers, and could be injected intravenous in the same way as the heroin is.


Liveinslums has explored all the places in the city where the kids and the street children of Bucharest are living, reconstructing together with its inhabitants a map of the street. The map is a tool used to monitor the living conditions of the inhabitants of the street and to identify new areas of intervention for the future projects. The artist Christian Frosi (together with the children of Dristor’s canals has made new backpacks using recycled materials. Ivan Tresoldi (street poet) and Elisa Rossi (anthropologist), who are the representatives of the Art Kitchen Ethica, were in Bucharest with the Liveinslums NGO. They hung in the canals of the North Railway Station the poem "The world upside down" and wrote, helped by the street children of Bucharest, "the world's longest verse".


 
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