Otilia Arellano has spent most of her 50 years living on the streets of Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city. But today, she is building a different way to live.

She is the leader of a self-sustaining group home where the otherwise homeless and destitute of Guadalajara pool their meagre resources and their shared dreams to make a new life and build a new "family".

Mexico's crossroads looks at the daily challenges facing this unique group home as the residents struggle to support themselves.

In the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, there are very few prospects for the very poor, especially those with young children. [Al Jazeera]

 

In Mexico, nearly 50 million people - 46 percent of the population - face poverty and see life on the street as the only way to survive. [Al Jazeera]

 

"Friends of the Street" is an independent NGO established 15 years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was created by people previously living or working on the streets and has had remarkable success. [Al Jazeera]

 

After living on the streets herself, Otilia Arellano, 53, was inspired to set up the non-profit organisation aimed at helping street workers and demanding their basic human rights. "How was my life on the streets? I was an addict, learning to steal," says Otilia. [Al Jazeera]

 

The idea behind this organisation was to find a way to dignify the work they did washing cars and find enough clarity to demand basic human rights for those facing the same conditions. [Al Jazeera]
"The street is a monster with a thousand heads that trap you. There are no men and women, only surviving souls. Life on the streets is unfair," says Otilia. The ex-street worker and activist has survived a life filled with addiction, violence, insecurity and abuse. [Al Jazeera]

 

In 1998, supported and counselled by local activists, Otilia and Patricia Lomas founded the non-profit organisation. "We use to take our children to work at the crossroads. This was until we met Eduardo Reyes, a lawyer who taught us about children’s rights," Patricia says. [Al Jazeera]

 

"I used to stay at home with my daughters. I was unemployed. I had no choice but to work on the streets. What else could I have done?" says Alba, a young mother who seeks the help of the NGO. [Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera