We first discovered this work after it was submitted to the Visual Storytelling Awards 2014. Although it was not chosen as a finalist by the jury, the editors of LensCulture were impressed and decided to publish this feature article about it. Enjoy!

According to a Lisbon City Hall study, there are about 2,800 “partially unoccupied,” and over 1,800 “completely abandoned” buildings scattered across the city. Additionally, there are over 800 homeless people living in the streets.

People who live in these abandoned sites, however, do not enter the statistics. For those trying to escape the cold Portuguese sidewalks, a roof must be an absolute secret.

And so, although in the heart of the city, they live on the periphery. In these “villages”—just off the beaten path—people face inhuman conditions, fragile lives, and lonely battles. Day after day, their struggles are hidden in plain sight.

The lack of sustainability and fragility of these places dramatically aligns with the lives they shelter. These people survive, sometimes in building a community from things others have discarded in the past. Whether in buildings, factories, or villages, they are the testimony of the unemployment crisis, the lack of opportunity—a sad fate that hangs over the Portuguese society.

Roof is a journey through the lives of people who don’t recognize themselves.

—Mario Cruz