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Composed of fourteen plots, Heliopolis has about 100,000 inhabitants in an area of almost one million square meters. This makes it the largest slum population in the city, but the second in area behind Paraisópolis. Once considered the largest favela in Brazil, through a process of urbanization Heliopolis today has the status of a neighborhood.
The neighborhood abuts the city of São Caetano do Sul and a creek, but due to the conurbation process these limits are not noticeable. On the banks of the creek there are electricity towers and undergrowth, representing the only green area on the border between São Paulo and São Caetano do Sul, since the other border is Avenida do Estado, a densely urbanized avenue bordering both margins of Tamanduateí River.
It began as a series of vacant lots and a few homes of factory workers, but from the 1960s and 1970s there was a large land invasion. The slum was built illegally, but was consolidated and turned into a neighborhood.
In the area housing estates were built and CDHU COHAB replaced degraded horizontal buildings, although there are still several tracts in this condition. The dirt roads were replaced by asphalt, and thus consolidated in structure.
In March 2008, international delegations visited the urbanization works in Heliopolis to study urban design and model the use of public space. Delegations were present from Lagos (Nigeria), La Paz (Bolivia), Cairo (Egypt), Manila (Philippines) and Ekurhuleni (South Africa).
Currently, some tracts of the district are in the process of urbanization.
The district has already received WiFi, which makes it possible for the residents to use the Internet.
Since 1997 Community Radio Heliopolis, a community radio station whose operation was authorized by the Ministry of Communications in March 2008, broadcasts in the neighborhood. Between 1992 and 1997, the station's programming was transmitted by horns hung on poles at central points of the neighborhood.
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