By Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira
LISBON (Reuters) – Six months ago Jose Moreno found himself without a roof over his head. Now wandering the streets of Lisbon, the 48-year-old said soaring food prices were making his life even harder.
“For people with little money, it becomes impossible,” Moreno said after picking up a burger and pasta meal from a van run by homeless charity CASA. “All prices have gone up.”
Another homeless man, who requested anonymity, joined the long queue for free food saying that if it weren’t for charity he would ‘die of hungry” because inflation had made even bread unaffordable.
The impact of the conflict in Ukraine has contributed to food price inflation, with the average cost of bread in the European Union 18% higher in August than a year ago, according to Eurostat data .
Carla Paixao, from the charity Doctors of the World, said the number of homeless people had increased “significantly” in Portugal since the February invasion.
The rising cost of living exacerbates the problem. The inflation rate in Portugal, one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, hit a 30-year high of 9.3% last month.
Low wages and high rents make Lisbon the third least viable city in the world, according to a recent study by insurance brokers CIA Landlords. The average monthly salary is 878 euros ($852), but apartments rarely cost less than 1,000 euros to rent, according to the study.
CASA director Maria Loureiro said the cost of living crisis was increasing the number of homeless people, but had also led people to cut back on charitable donations to help manage their own bills.
“We have to make a bigger effort to reach everyone but we don’t have the capacity to respond to everyone,” she added, explaining that requests for support jumped around 30% in the first half of the year. 2022 compared to a year ago.
The same thing happens in other countries. In Britain, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) said 4.9 million fewer people gave to charity or sponsored someone between January and April.
In addition, inflation erodes the value of these gifts.
Analysis by CAF and Pro Bono Economics has shown that the £5.7 billion ($6.31 billion) UK charities received in donations in the first six months of 2022 will be worth £8.5 % less by the end of the year due to inflation.
Charities are also struggling to cope with rising energy bills and dwindling food donations, which means they have to turn to food banks for help. “It’s a time of pressure,” said Isabel Jonet, head of Portugal’s food banks.
Paixao, from Doctors of the World, which provides medical support to the homeless, said inflation and high housing costs are pushing new groups of people into homelessness, including people who have jobs but who don’t did not earn enough to pay their rent.
Citing the grim international backdrop, she said the number of homeless people would likely rise further this winter. “We are quite worried,” she added.
($1 = 1.0310 euros)
(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Miguel Pereira and Pedro Nunes; Editing by Jane Merriman)