of the building housing the national government.
They slept badly and ate badly, Avila says. But they persevered together. In 2011, they established their own nongovernmental organization: Proyecto 7. Today, Avila serves as president.
People who lived or still live on the streets constitute the members of Proyecto 7. The organization is based on the idea that collaboration can yield social inclusion.
The organization took over in 2011 the direction of Monteagudo, which thrives today on this same concept of collaboration.
Formerly and currently homeless men drive their own rehabilitation at Centro de Integración Monteagudo, which offers shelter, skills training and health care. Employees and residents say the holistic and self-motivated approach gives homeless men more of a chance to change their lives than government shelters and homes, which offer limited stays and resources.
A 2011 government census estimated that nearly 900 people were living on the streets of Buenos Aires, says Vanina Judith Windecker, operations manager of the city Gerencia Operativa de Hogares y Paradores, which manages the government’s homes and shelters for the homeless under the Ministerio de Desarrollo Social. More than 85 percent of the homeless were men.
Before Proyecto 7 took charge of Monteagudo, the home was operated by Servicio Interparroquial de Ayuda Mutua, a nonprofit civil society association of members of the Catholic, Methodist and Anglican churches who assist marginalized adults in Buenos Aires.
Avila says that Monteagudo differs from the government-run homes and shelters in the city because its residents drive its operation. Every Friday, residents hold assemblies where everyone has the right to participate in the decisions regarding the center.
“The difference exists first in that the person arrives and they explain his rights to him,” Avila says. “Moreover, he is informed that he can participate in the decisions of the place through participation. Any change in the schedules or the system is decided through the assemblies, with the participation of all.”
Rights of residents include education, health care and professional training, Avila says.
Another difference is that the staff understands the residents’ backgrounds because the people who run Proyecto 7 used to live in the streets themselves, Avila says.
“The person on the street has all their rights violated,” he says.
The center aims to restore these rights.
“We don’t impose time limits on people,” Avila says. “The process of each person is respected, and an interdisciplinary work is achieved.”
The men of Monteagudo are able to attend trade workshops, write for a magazine or finish their high school education.
Workshops include fine arts, English, writing, reading, radio, silk-screen printing, photography, the history of politics and journalism. The journalism workshop edits the center’s bimonthly magazine, called “Nunca es Tarde” or “Never Too Late.”
The first edition was 31 pages and came out a year ago. The content includes life stories, prominent places in the city and cooking recipes written by the men of Monteagudo. Donations, local advertising and cultural festivals organized by the center provide funding to produce it.