Brazilian psychiatrist Flavio Falcone has found a way to get homeless drug addicts to feel comfortable speaking to him about their lives. He dresses up like a clown.
Wearing a bright red nose and makeup, Falcone walks around the center of Sao Paulo, which is nicknamed “Cracolandia” (Crackland) because of the high drug use in that area. Transforming into “The Clown,” he says, helps him get information from the addicts about their health, so he can point them in the direction of the treatment they desperately need. He’s been doing this since 2012.
“This character represents the exposure of mistakes, of the fragility of what exists in the shadow–the exposure of failures,” Falcone told Reuters. “What makes you laugh is the clown that trips, not the clown who walks straight. The people who are on the street are really the failures of capitalist society.”
Along with his clownish appearance, Falcone uses hip-hop music to connect to homeless individuals. During his visits with them, they can request songs and even rap along with Falcone. Since the pandemic began last year, Falcone’s job has been made more difficult.
According to Reuters, the Brazilian government shut down the closest homeless shelter in the area and displaced many individuals. Late last year, Falcone and actress Andrea Macera launched “Roof, Work and Treatment,” a program that offers support to the homeless.
Falcone is now a local icon and has made a difference in the lives of many people, including Jailson Antonio de Oliveira, who has been able to stay off the streets by renting a room for him and his girlfriend. De Oliveira, who has a tattoo with the word “clown” in Portuguese across his wrist, credits Falcone for the support.
“Today I have a better life because of Flavio Falcone, ‘The Clown,’” says Oliveira. “He’s my right arm, he helps with everything he can.”