Improving the services of the Centro Sociale Vincenziano Homeless Shelter in Rome, Italy

Project location: Italy, Rome
Project start date: October 2014 - Project end date: April 2015
Project number: 2014-046
Beneficiary: Associazione Centro Sociale Vincenziano Onlus


At the Centro Ascolto/Listening Centre in via Farnese, the main objective is to welcome, support and restore dignity for those in need through the fulfillment of some (or all) their primary needs: washing themselves, clothes supply, eating, sleeping. This is necessary not only for the physical and mental health of the human beings (e.g. availability of sterilized items, a safe place for social gathering and leisure), but also to start their journey back to society.

• Easy access to the formal and informal service network in order to optimize the resources in the territory (the community is a fundamental resource, often neglected when trying to find solutions for those in trouble. The territory becomes the place to promote networks of solidarity to assist people in search of answers).
• Reach out to those who do not take advantage of the services due to shame or cultural differences
• Offer a service aimed at the whole community both for social and health support
• Promote mutual and self support and activate citizen engagement processes.

Overall the difference and key innovating factor of the service consists in the direct support offered to the individuals, above and beyond their immediate necessity. Those who come to the CSV have no doubt a specific need as their main motivation, which entitles them to CSV's services; however, as opposed to the common practice in the standard services,  the person in charge of listening and support also tries to proactively and non-intrusively stimulate the establishment of a human relationship, which the beneficiaries can use as a reference point not only in the moment of fulfillment of their specific need but also on-going, during their change process.
The use of showers and the supply of clean clothes does not only fulfill the primary need of the users but it also offers - and it often is the starting point of - alternative paths of social re-entry by leveraging each individual’s very abilities and potential.

The Nando Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant for this project. The project's tasks are:

1. Unconditional reception and on-boarding of the person in need, with dignity and no distinction of race, gender or religion;
2. listening services and administrative services to analyse and dispatch the help requests and various needs brought up by the beneficiaries (food, overnight accommodation, psychological support); counseling on support processes to meet the specific needs of each individual, in cooperation with the formal and informal support network in the territory;
3. personal cleaning services, including shower, supply of sanitary items and clean clothes whenever available.
4. Orientation to the best solutions based on the resources available in the territory.
As mentioned, the Centro di Ascolto/Listening Centre provides multiple services, all aimed at the homeless, and managed together with other cooperating entities that also try to address the same social issues.

The main issue that the intervention of the Centro Sociale Vincenziano ONLUS is aimed at, is the psychological, social and financial distress of the homeless and the marginalized people who live in precarious conditions in Rome and in the XVII district where the service is delivered. 
As a matter of fact the situation of the homeless in Rome keeps getting worse and the services rendered by the Centro di Ascolto/Listening Centre fulfill the needs not only in the neighborhood but in general in the city, as the requests come from many other districts. In the last few months the type of requesters coming to the Centre is becoming more and more varied thus broadening our span of support. We now  assist not only the ‘classic’ type of needy individuals (homeless, immigrants or mentally ill people) but also Italian citizens who have lost their jobs and homes due to the economic crisis and who have no social support (see data below on this subject).  
Up until recently CSV has been able to provide  services with its own resources but the reason for this project is the overwhelming increase of the requests (at our site in via Farnese we have twice as many requests for help, accommodation, showers and assistance); if approved, the project would allow us to continue and improve a social service that for the last thirty years has been an important resource for the neighborhood and the whole city. Although there are many charitable organizations offering support services to people in need in Rome, there are very few who provide at the same time: listening, accommodation, showers, cafeteria, and 360° support to those who need it.

The data relative to the first census for the homeless have just been published by MinWelfare, Fiopsd, Caritas, Istat. The national figures show that the number of homeless in Italy is 47,648, mainly distributed in the Northern regions. In fact 86.4% of the homeless are estimated to be in Milan versus 66.2% in Rome.
The Capital has the following features:
- higher number of people with home among those who need cafeteria services (24,7% versus 17,4%);
- higher number of homeless using the same type of service multiple times (those who use the cafeteria, use it the whole week: 47,4% have lunch - versus 35,3% in Milan - and 53% have dinner - versus 49,7%)
-higher number of foreigners (they represent 46,7% of the homeless, versus 78,3% in Milan).
Another source of data is "RACCONTAMI 2014", the first census for the homeless exclusively made in the city of Rome by Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti and Università Bocconi, supported by Roma Capitale. The local investigation - performed by directly talking to people on the streets and the centers for the homeless - shows that there are 3.276 homeless in Rome (0,11% of the entire population in the city), 48% of which sleep on the streets and 52% in dormitories.

"This is the first census for homeless people in our city and it has specific objectives: quantify the issue, localize it, analyze it and highlight the potential and challenges of the currently available services  - said the Mayor of Rome at the presentation of the results - Thanks to this initiative we are more aware of this problem and I am sure that the data will also show the homeless’ expectations, their emotional status, data on their level of socialization. Many unexpected strenghts of the Roman network have emerged from the study, and we must further increase them and share them”.
The study has been performed in March 2014 on the streets and homeless support centers of the city, through 1.200 questionnaires gathered by 1.175 collectors. The data collected shows that among the different districts the highest concentration of homeless is in the historic center. In the I District in fact there are 591 homeless sleeping on the streets while 183 spend the night in the dormitories, then there is the VI District (29 on the streets and 455 in the dormitories) and then the VII District (67 on the streets and 447 in dormitory).
Furthermore in the  district of reference - XVII - the resident population is 70.459 with living density of 125,6 inhabitants/ha (of which 10,6% are foreigners). In other words, it is a very densely inhabited ditrict. By looking at the analysis of the needs made by the City of Rome "Roma: i bisogni e le domande sociali/Rome: the needs and the social demands" relative to the XVII District, it is clear that several of the population’s needs are not met by the resources that the City has already dispatched, thus confirming their inadequacy to the residents’ needs.
Among the main needs are: financial support, cultural mediation and a support network.
Many requests include several of these aspects, like the support to families that are struggling financially and that - at the same time - also need major assistance for lodging. Surprisingly, the strong demand for financial help in the XVII District shows an increasing poverty risk even in the so-called wealthy areas; as a consequence, and because of the high cost of rentals in this District, the population struggles to find lodging - especially the elderly.  
The District is currently supporting 20 families in financial distress but given the steady increase of requests, many might remain on the waiting list because the funds available are not enough to support more rentals in the short run. It is worth mentioning that the main reasons for the loss of homes in Italy are the economic downturn and the weakening of family relationships.

In 2015 this project received another grant from the NPF  to improve the shower service, the breakfast service and the clothing distribution, in order to have them more welcoming, helping the beneficiaries feel again the beauty of a clean environment.
It also aims to improve the counselling service, trying to help the beneficiaries take actions before falling into serious difficulties, using the existing social services available for this scope,  and also trying to help the beneficiaries to start again their walk to social inclusion, focusing, when possible, on existing vocational programmes run by other ngos.

In 2016 this project received a second year grant from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation.


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