For nearly 35 years, Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho was homeless, living on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. He mostly kept to himself, writing poetry from the same spot every single day ― a median that he called “The Island.” Locals came to know of Sobrinho, but no one seemed to pay him much mind. Until, that is, Shalla Monteiro walked by.
Monteiro befriended the unkempt man and soon learned that he had been holding onto a big dream over the decades.
“Raimundo always wanted to publish a book of his poems, and as a person who lived in the streets, [this] became an impossible dream,” Monteiro says. “I felt I needed to do something.”
Sobrinho signed each piece of poetry as “The Conditioned,” so Monteiro set up a Facebook page called Ocondicionado to publish his works. Soon after, passersby started seeing Sobrinho differently.
“People started to get close to him,” Monteiro says. “To talk to him, to go there, just say, ‘Hey, I saw you. I want to know you. I always wanted to know, but I didn’t have the courage to come and talk.’”
Then, something life-changing happened.
“I got a message from his brother,” Monteiro says.
Sobrinho’s brother reached out and then went to see Sobrinho in person. “When I arrived at The Island, I found a man in the midst of garbage, hairy and unshaved, with no hygiene whatsoever,” he recalls. “This person was my brother.”
Sobrinho’s brother asked Sobrinho come to live with him, and the family reunited after decades apart.
“My brothers are still alive. They’re all alive. He was the one missing to complete the emptiness we had,” Sobrinho’s brother says. “He is not a guest. He is part of the family. With my children and my wife, he is an integral part.”
No longer homeless, Sobrinho was then able to take his poetry to the next level, with Monteiro’s help: His book of poetry, #Inconditional, was published in December of 2015. One of Sobrinho’s own pieces of poetry beautifully sums up the power of his story.
Damned is the man who abandons himself. These six words show that the worse the situation is, never, ever should a man consider it lost.
“His dreams [are] coming true,” Monteiro says. “After so long.”
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