The Portuguese haven’t lost their close-knit family connections due to WWII. Family members who work in other countries, stay in touch, and when someone returns to Madeira from abroad, the new home has to be as near as possible to the other relatives. They also keep a close watch on their neighbours and are well inclined to help other persons in need.
In Portugal, nobody has to go hungry or without shelter. The state, costly as it is, offers plenty of help to people who lost their livelihood during the crisis and are hard-up. (My feeling is that the Portuguese are not good at building up savings for bad times.)
Shelter and meals are available in “Rua do Frigorífico” (the fridge street) in Funchal. Some institutions, supported by volunteers, collect out-of-date foodstuffs from the supermarkets and hand out meals during the day time. After extensive donation drives in the major supermarkets – maybe you have already been approached by volunteers? – packages of dry goods are put together and distributed to (registered) needy families in the surrounding areas. Other institutions, such as C.A.S.A., are collecting “leftover” hotel buffet food (provided it is of excellent quality, of course) at night and take the food to a “Cantina” where the homeless (who do not want to go to a shelter) can choose a dish, sit down and eat in peace.
The homeless do not come for the food alone. The volunteers do their best to make every person welcome, and everyone is treated and seen as a human being; they show respect for everybody. True, once in a while a fight breaks out between the “guests”, and if the volunteers cannot calm things down, the police have to step in. Other than that, there is a lot of gratitude coming back, and the volunteers chat with each other about their regular clients almost as if they were family.
Of course, it would be best if the whole service were unnecessary, and it is sad to see that we grow accustomed to these services as being the “new normal”. But such is life. For the foreign residents, the financial crisis may have had a mild effect. For some of the Portuguese, it has left them in dire straits.