Walter Varanda

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1997
Associação Minha Rua Minha Casa


This profile was prepared when Walter Varanda was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
Walter Varanda seeks to simultaneously rescue the individual humanity and dignity of existing street adults and transform the way society views and treats the problem of homelessness. To do so, he has developed a three-pronged approach. First, he is working directly with the adult street population, empowering them to organize and provide basic services for themselves. He has established an association run for and by street people, which addresses their basic needs and helps them to reintegrate into society. By identifying their most pressing needs and collectively designing appropriate solutions to their own problems, this association of street people breaks the pattern of assistance still prevalent among Brazilian churches, nongovernmental organizations, and government programs.
Second, Walter is working with existing social service organizations and other professionals who want to help. He is changing the dominant model of paternalistic service provision among organizations that currently work with street people. He is helping them transform their methodology from one that encourages passivity and dependence to one that allows street people to take control of their own lives. Walter is also reaching out to various sectors–upper-class, middle-class, business people, professionals, housewives, and others–to help them understand the complex problem of homelessness and involve them in constructive opportunities through which they can contribute to the solution.
Finally, Walter is working to change a society-wide attitude regarding the causes of and solutions to adult homelessness. He is countering the widespread belief that street people are subhuman and are homeless simply due to their individual problems, and challenging Brazilian citizens to understand homelessness as a symptom of larger social ills. He is actively building partnerships among diverse institutions to demonstrate that the solution to homelessness requires the participation of all of society.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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