August 24, 2019
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A life of addiction on the streets of Bogotá

By David Casasús Márquez

Bogota, 8 ago (efe-epa).- In 2014 José left Spain and arrive in Bogota, where he has spent the last four years living on the streets and smoking “basuco”, a raw cocaine pasta typically smoked through a pipe.

He is one of the 10,000 homeless people living on the streets of the Colombian capital.

“Why will I return to Spain? I have nothing and nobody left there, Jose told Efe.

Jose, who describes himself as a musician, left Valencia, on the Spanish coast, when his parents died.

Colombian Luis Alexander Alvarado, 46, became a drug addict 23 years ago and has been living on the street for 7 years.

When Alvarado was 18 years old he left his town and family behind to arrive in Bogota, where he wanted to finish his High School studies.

One night, during a party, he tasted basuco for the first time and his life changed forever.

"Months later I had no direction in life. I started to do it as something personal, as a form of escapism. It arrived in my life and caught me, put me on the street, under a bridge, digging in the trash," Alvarado said.

Life gave him a second chance when the Blue Angels, a group of care workers that help homeless people and drug addicts living on the streets of Bogota, found him.

Alvarado lives now in a shelter called “El Camino”.

"There is an active search team that goes to bridges, railway platforms, “ollas” (urban drug markets), a team dedicated to non-permanent homes, a psychosocial support team, one that works in the reception centers where the internal process is done and, finally, team that acts as a link one they leave the program,” Raúl Ortiz, coordinator at “El Camino” shelter said.

“I’m here because the street hit me very hard. I came to recover what I lost, to recover sociability and self-esteem, to recover myself and my family, whom I lost after so many years on the streets,” Alvarado added.

Alvarado will be in the shelter for between 9 and 11 months as finding a job and socialization are the final goals of the rehabilitation program.

He hopes to recover the lost time with this 25 year-old son and he will “look back only to avoid falling back into this addiction," he added.

"Now I have a clear future ahead, in which my son and my family are. I have been in contact with them since I started in the program. Thanks to the psychologists I have been able to regain contact with them."

The program has a varied training offer and Alvarado chose the audiovisual communication path.

The majority of homeless people living in Bogota identifies the Blue Angels project, which makes their daily work easier.

Blue Angels work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“They are usually under the effect of a psychoactive drug. However, we’re well-received, they say hello and call us 'teachers',” Oscar Velandia, one of the promoters of the Blue Angels said.

“I have learned not to complain so much, to value food and what I have, to be more humble and, above all, more sensitive.”

So far this year, 7,169 homeless people have been looked after in shelters belonging to Secretary for Social Integration in Bogota.

A total of 2,323 have taken part in a rehabilitation program to improve their lives and 633 of them are now away from the streets. EFE-EPA

dcm / vm

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