Homelessness and Addiction on Every Corner in Bogota

Enough is enough and I have decided to try to catalogue homelessness and addiction that surrounds us everywhere and in every neighbourhood here in Bogotá. As regular visitors to this blog will know, I am regularly out walking my dog through Lourdes Park and around this area of Chapinero and so, am exposed to a great deal of human wretchedness. Chapinero is a nice part of town and in no way are the worst cases here.

homelessness and addiction

This lady is regularly seen in Lourdes Park. She keeps her belongings in some plastic bags in a tree

Previously I lived in the Candelaria and arguably the homeless and addiction was more visible there but, really, just to stroll down Calle 64 through Lourdes and then beyond the Carrera 11 reveals a great deal of human suffering. Even near to the well-heeled barrios of Usaquen and Santa Barbara you can see that this same certain human misery continues to exist.

homeless and addiction

For going on 40 minutes this young man shivered and mumbled to himself. He was clearly in need of his next hit

The idea is not to gambol about with my long lens camera and become a target, but, I will quickly just snap shots with my smart phone. I want to be another unobtrusive participant in Bogotá’s daily cycle of life walking his dog. I will try to shoot photos from the car, at traffic lights when window washers approach and indeed as I stroll round the city on errands.

homelessness and addiction

Ducking from the rain under a discarded umbrella this lady is a relative newcomer to the park. Her belongings are strewn about her around the base of the tree in plastic bags

Will I be able to garner stories from these people? Possibly. Are they victims of abuse, were they victims from the conflict representing just one head amongst an estimated 5 million since 1958 in Colombia? Do they have safe houses to go to each evening? Perhaps I am late on this with all the publicity around the Bronx and the operations there, but, perhaps I can shed some light on the realities that stretch across Bogotá in all districts ranging from stratos 1 to 6.

So often, we just wind up the windows of the car, retreat to our comfortable homes, cross the road to avoid undesirable looking types, but, they are here and they are visible. There’s no avoiding the down and outs in Bogotá.


About Richard

Anglo-Canadian resident in Colombia. Journalist, Writer, Hotelier, Expedition Guide
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4 Responses to Homelessness and Addiction on Every Corner in Bogota

  1. Sarak says:

    Thank you for the reminder. And the gentle nudge I need to do more. Living in my bland, safe, sterile, cotton wool environment – I'd begun to forget.

  2. Katia says:

    Does the city do anything for them? I've heard something about soup kitchens- are there many of them? And are there any shelters for people to stay at at night?

    My city back home (Nashville) and many others have been able to greatly reduce homelessness via a concept of housing first. Where, instead of first tending to the vast health needs (physical, mental, emotional) of the homeless population and then getting them housing down the road, the emphasis is on securing housing first. It also saves taxpayers lots of money. 60 Minutes did a great profile of it a few months ago: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/sex-matters-philip-

    • Richard says:

      Katia, thank you for your comment, yes there are some shelters and refuges for these people but they are often dangerous and from the few people I have been able to speak to they have rules that those wishing to be permitted entry have to comply. They cannot be under the influence, they must wash and so on….it's something I need to investigate further.

  3. Steveh says:

    Some charities are doing effective work in the area I live (Teusaquillo). One day shopping in Carulla I was amazed to see a beggar I had known for years, he was now in nice new clothes, all cleaned up, and buying groceries. He told me he had done a program to get his life back in track and had some part-time work. So there are some success stories out there. As a side note he told me his whole extended family had been killed by armed groups in the rural area where he lived, and he came to Bogota as a youth with no support. Many homeless are also violence victims.
    Interesting post on ´housing first´. Some street people told me of a new huge hostel for homeless close to the city centre that was bombed a few days before the opening date, this was a few months back. They were all shook up because some friends of were close to the blast. Maybe the neighbours werent happy with the plan!

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