Poor Hondurans who were barely eking out a living selling basics on the capital’s gritty streets prior to the coronavirus outbreak are now sleeping on those same streets as they can no longer afford their rent. Many had previously lived in tenements in the historic centre of Tegucigalpa or in neighbourhoods on the city outskirts.
One newly homeless person is Perla Maradiaga, a 35-year-old mother of two, had been selling water from a street stand. She now begs for donations after her sales collapsed since the government last month ordered offices and schools closed to contain the pandemic.
“This way you can get some food, so your stomach isn’t empty,” she said, sitting on the ground with her 2-year-old daughter in her arms. “But sometimes we can’t get nearly enough to buy milk or diapers.”
Maradiaga is one of what locals say are at least three dozen informal economy workers in Tegucigalpa who can no longer afford the apartments they had previously been renting and are now forced to spend the night on the streets, with no means of protecting themselves from infection.
She is especially worried that her kids will suddenly fall ill and will not be able to access proper care. “If they get sick, are we going to just wait until they die?”
Since March 25, the government has been delivering care packages of basic foodstuffs door-to-door, which include items like beans, rice, hand sanitizer, and face masks. They estimate that some 3.2 million people had received the packages. But the newly homeless who said that without their own place, they had received nothing.
Honduras has reported nearly 600 confirmed coronavirus cases to date, as well around 50 deaths. Roughly 40 percent of the population was already living in extreme poverty, with half of those subsisting on $1 or less a day, according to data from the national statistics institute.