CAIS is a Charity, an IPSS (Private Institution for Social Solidarity), founded in 1994 to promote and support the empowerment and autonomy of people in a situation of homelessness and extreme poverty.
A member of several international organizations, CAIS also has an important role in the promotion of debate and reflexion on issues related to the phenomena of poverty and exclusion, in Portugal and abroad.
In 2012, CAIS was nominated for the Civil Society Prize of the European Economic and Social Committee, and was awarded the second prize. It was the first time that a Portuguese institution won this prize.
It started with the publication of a monthly street magazine (with the same name CAIS), as part of a broader inclusion strategy in which social, psychological counselling go hand in hand with a house and work-oriented formation and animation offered in two centres: CAIS Oporto Centre and CAIS Lisbon Centre. Initiatives, under the Inclusion and Empowering Programme, such as selling of the magazine, the StreetFootball, the AventurArte (cultural festival, vindicating the right to culture) and the daily formation which goes from the learning of some school disciplines, computing skills to handcrafting and the performance of arts, all aim at making ready the integration of CAIS’ target group into society, whose last stage is the access to housing and work.
Social Entrepreneurship and Social Cohesion
Lately, and because finding a job has become more and more difficult for someone who was once homeless, in prison… CAIS managed to create some working-solutions in line with the selling of CAIS magazine, as part of its Social Entrepreneurship. These are CAIS Recycling Atelier, Car Dry Washing, Tradition Shoe-Polishers and CAISBuy@Work. Obviously, not every one of the 372 people supported last year by CAIS got a job in one of these projects. But some did, and also 34 others found a job in the job-market with CAIS help. We do not have for sure the key to unemployment in Portugal, but the moment we are capable of driving someone out of that condition, is already a meaningful achievement, a victory to be celebrated.
Other ideas are constantly being worked out, with the intention to create jobs and economic growth among the most vulnerable people, building in this way greater social cohesion.
Initiatives under the Intervention Programme such as Bread of All. Bread For All, Photography Prize Reflex, the Annual Seminar (CAIS Congress), all CAIS Publications, and other moments in which CAIS is called upon to speak up its mind on different social issues, all reveal that CAIS is not a mere service-provider to those who are extremely poor, but an entrepreneur voice that speaks with them and in their defence, building social, economic, cultural, political and environmental cohesion. CAIS Association is a member of international organizations such as the European Federation FEANTSA (based in Brussels), the International Network of Street Papers (INSP, based in Glasgow) and the European Street Football World (based in Berlin), a membership that also reflects the way in which it posits itself in the field, namely as a strong builder of bridges networks and partnerships, between social organizations, companies and State institutions.