Porto Alegre Innovating project
New livelihoods for the community of Vila Santa Teresinha

1 Jan 2013


Following the work with the Vila Chocolatão resettlement and the new model of Sustainability and Citizenship networks to help uplift vulnerable communities that came from that project a network group has been established with re-settled community Vila Santa Teresinha. Like Vila Chocolatoa, Vila Santo Teresinha was an informal settlement whose community mainly worked as catadores (waste pickers). Vila Santa Teresinha was not relocated like the Vila Chocolatão community, the community redeveloped on the same site. However there was not a network group functioning at that time nor a social program in place to prepare the community for change.

Work of the Vila Santa Teresinha Sustainability and Citizenship Network, Porto Alegre

Like other communities experiencing social vulnerability, Santa Teresinha’s context is the result of decades of social-spacial exclusion that generated real community ghettos. The history of both Vila Santa Teresinha and its surrounding areas involves violence, child labour, slave labour, sexual exploitation, thefts, homicides, drug traffic and turf wars between gangs fighting for control of the narcotics trade. A change to formal housing units alone would not solve the problem of social exclusion, as the work must be done in order to redeem individual and community self-esteem, stimulated by the exercise of citizenship.

The cross-sectoral Vila Santa Teresinha Sustainability and Citizenship group was formed in 2013 and is working with the community’s residents to overcome challenges relating to livelihoods, environmental and health impacts of waste and social problems. Like the Vila Chocolatão project, a recycling cooperative and waste sorting centre is being established. However, this activity is post-redevelopment rather than prior.

About Vila Santa Teresinha

Vila Santa Teresinha was originally an informal settlement in Porto Alegre’s city centre that grew gradually over a period of 30 years or so. The settlement’s residents predominantly made a living outside of the formal economy by collecting and sorting recyclable waste. The area was originally referred to as Vila dos Papeleiros (Village of Paper Workers). In 2005, the settlement was destroyed by fire, leaving almost all residents homeless. Following this devastating fire, Porto Alegre City Hall registered all residents and ensured that the area was vacated whilst the new social housing project was developed. Construction of the new development was completed in 2007. The settlement was re-named Vila Santa Teresinha in honour of the Santa Teresinha de Jesus parish, which supported residents of the former Vila dos Papeleiros community in the aftermath of the fire that decimated the community.

Vila Santa Teresinha is home to approximately 1,400 people living in 277 social housing units. These housing units include two and three bedroom single-storey houses and townhouses ranging in size from 42 to 52 square metres. There are also 10 commercial premises that have been established in the community. Two houses have been designed to accommodate the needs of community members with disabilities. A new childcare centre, public square and a Socio-Educational Service (Serviço de Apoio Socioeducativo) also feature in the new settlement. While there have been many positive changes, persistent issues related to addiction, domestic violence and crime remain in the community.

In the surroundings of Vila Santa Teresinha, there are many inhabitants (around 1200 people) that were expelled by drug dealers and today live in really poor buildings (known as “pensões”). This includes catadores, prostitutes, drug addicts, drug dealers, workers from other places and homeless people. These buildings are a major concern for public administration. Vila Santa Teresinha and its surroundings are located in one of the city’s entrances and near the city center and this facilitates this kind of phenomenon. It is certainly a long-term challenge and we will need to be resilient about it.

Issues and Challenges

  • Poverty

  • Health and safety hazards due to community members sorting recyclable waste at home

  • Persistent issues of addiction, domestic violence and crime in the community


  • Sustainable livelihoods

  • Connecting community members to the city and its opportunities, ending up a cycle of social marginalization.

  • Sustainable livelihoods and professional qualification to members of the community

  • Sustainable development of the Fourth District



Ministério Público do Trabalho   |   Ministério Público do Meio Ambiente   |  


Hands Together Santa Reresinha (Mãos Unidas Santa Teresinha)   |  

Civil Society

Cooperativa de Ensino do Reciclador de Porto Alegre (CERPOA) Voluntários   |  



Establishment of theVila Santa Teresinha Sustainability and Citizenship Network

The Vila Santa Teresinha Sustainability and Citizenship Network commenced operations in 2013. The partner organisations of the Sustainability and Citizenship Network are Porto Alegre City Hall (with its different offices and programs), Irmãos Maristas, Cooperativa Mãos Verdes, Ministério Público do Trabalho, Ministério Público do Meio Ambiente, Vila Flores, Casa Brasil and AVESOL and Instituto Gerdau.

First Actions of the Sustainability and Citizenship Network – Livelihoods for the Vila Santa Teresinha Community – a Recycling Cooperative

The Network had to find a place for a recycling/shed Unit, right next to the community. We identified an unoccupied garage that belonged to DMLU and with the partnership and investment of this department we renovated the garage in order for it to become the recycling cooperative which became known as ‘Hands Together Santa Teresinha’ (Mãos Unidas Santa Teresinha).

This was an enormous challenge, as we knew that beyond creating a place for work, we had to give the people qualifications and skills and personal confidence in order for them to leave the work in the streets as “catadores and carrinheiros” and be employed as associated workers in the recycling shed. As in the old Vila Chocolatão, the way of living of the population needed to be transformed, and change a context like this one is not easy. These are people that, in their majority, have a history with drugs or alcohol, and furthermore there is an existent “black market” that benefits from this cruel and nasty reality. It is very hard to break the cycle of social exclusion.

To do this capacity building work, we developed a partnership with Irmãos Maristas and AVESOL. They ministered courses and workshops on management, conflict mediation, citizenship and environmental education for a group of 40 residents.

Through the “We Are All Porto Alegre Programme” (Programa Somos Todos Porto Alegre), the same approach was undertaken in Vila Santa Teresinha as was used with the old Vila Chocolatão community. A financial aid, the “bolsa capacitação” was provided to the people involved in the training. This is the equivalent of the Brazilian minimum wage. This was needed because the participants would not be able to work and take part of the courses at the same time. After the shed was ready, the financial support “bolsa capacitação” easily decreased as the participants increasingly started to obtain livelihood from the recycling process of the new shed, until getting to a point where the people did not need financial support from the programme anymore. The “We Are All Porto Alegre Programme” offers a social educator within the shed and continues to provide opportunities for professional and personal development as well as diverse improvements in the physical space of the shed. This is a long-term process and we need to have a continued resilient action.


The Santa Teresinha Sustainability and Citizenship Network participated in the articulation to make the construction of a gymnasium for the community start in the first week of June 2016, after almost three years of negotiationThis was the result of a great partnership with Gerdau, as the building was funded by Instituto Gerdau and the Johannpeter Family. AVESOL and Irmãos Maristas will manage and offer sports and many actions to the community in this new space. In fact, it will serve for many different activities with the purpose of entertaining the community, especially teenagers and kids. There currently isn’t an area right now where the children can play, during summer it is too warm to play outdoors and during winter it rains too frequently.

Fourth District project

Projeto 4D is a long-term urban project that aims to formulate policies, smaller projects and programs that will contribute to qualify the urban space in an orderly and planned manner that will improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. These actions are both from public and private sectors.

This urban project is being prepared by a group consisting of different offices from the City Hall and other public and private agents, with the coordination of GT (Grupo de Trabalho – Work Group) 4th District, contemplating projects spanning landscaping, roads, cycleways, accessibility, infrastructure, lighting, street furniture and preservation of cultural heritage. It is being viewed as an opportunity to expand the city’s economy and attract entrepreneurs especially in the areas of innovation technology, education (university researchers and the healthcare area).

Secretaria Municipal de Urbanismo (SMURB, Porto Alegre’s City Hall Urbanism Office e Secretaria da Fazenda, Porto Alegre’s City Hall Finance Office) is coordinating the architectural part of the project. The Secretaria Municipal de Governança Local (SMGL, Porto Alegre’s City Hall Local Governance Office) is coordinating the social component.

The city wants to make sure that the project delivers positive social outcomes for all the community. The Minister for Local Governance, Cezar Busatto said, “Normally the revitalization plans developed in large areas cause a gentrification process. We want to make our work in the 4th District a great experience of social inclusion instead.”

The Secretaria Municipal de Governança Local (SMGL, Porto Alegre’s City Hall Local Governance Office) is currently organizing a cycle of three social workshops. Vila Santa Teresinha and all of its surroundings are part of the 4th District territory and for this reason all of the Santa Teresinha Network members are participating in the encounters.

The Social Workshop Cycle has as its main objective the establishment and inclusion of a Social Guidelines’ Plan to the revitalization project. Our main purpose is to make the revitalization impact positively all of the people in the territory, regardless social class, making it an opportunity for local social integration. These guidelines will serve as subsidies for the formulation of the wording of a 4th District Complementary Law, which will be forwarded to Porto Alegre’s City Council. We classified the Fourth District Project as a subproject of Vila Santa Teresinha as our action regarding it is predominantly focused on including the inhabitants of Santa Teresinha and its surrounding into the Masterplan.


  • A recycling cooperative has been established within the community, generating formal income to community members.
  • Pedestrian Crossing in front of the community.
  • At Casa Brasil: space optimisation, more vacancies at SASE Casa Brasil – CERPOA (SASE is “Serviço de Apoio Socioeducativo”, a socioeducational program that guarantees social protection for children between the ages of 6 and 14 years old in economic and social vulnerability situations).
  • Telecentre at Casa Brasil.
  • SAFE (Special Family Protection Service) for the community available at Casa Brasil – CERPOA.
  • “Resilient Education” project launch.
  • “United Hands” sorting unity at Santa Teresinha.
  • Training and support for inclusion in the labour market.
  • “We are All Porto Alegre” program partnership. A variety of courses was offered to the Santa Teresinha community: literacy courses to adults, professional capacitation and trainership as carpenters, masons and electricians, sewing and others.
  • Building of a gymnasium.

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