Filling the Gap: Moving Forward from the Vicious Cycle of Social Exclusion and Poverty  for the Inhabitants of Ponte Mammolo Gathering in Rome

Project location: ITALY, Rome
Project start date: June 2015 - Project end date: April 2016
Project number: 2015-009
Beneficiary: PRIME Italia ONLUS


With 91.714 (IDOS, UNAR report 2014) refugees and asylum seekers, Italy is one of the major European States to accept people fleeing from their country of origin. According to national and European laws, asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to access the labor market and to work in the hosting Country. In Italy, refugees are included in the National System for the Reception of Asylum Seekers and Refugees (SPRAR), which is the main actor to provide accommodation, meals, social and health assistance. In addition, it offers different services to refugees among which support to access the labor market.
Unfortunately, the available resources allocated for the system of reception are very limited and the SPRAR cannot guarantee full assistance to all the refugees living in Italy. The majority of the persons qualified to get the refugee status get dispersed on the territory without any kind of assistance and relegated to the margins of society, living in very miserable conditions, being exploited or getting only undeclared, underpaid work. Very often, local organizations and NGOs support and promote integration and long-term settlement of refugees on the territory, in order to let them emerging from this shameful situation.
The case of Rome is exemplary. There are over 10.800 (IDOS, UNAR report 2014) (between applicants and beneficiaries of international protection) living in the Capital city entitled to housing, in addition to basic services. A large part of them struggle to survive in the streets, in very poor condition and suffer from social exclusion. According to data from the Office of Immigration of the City of Rome, currently the Italian reception system provide accommodation and basic services to 3.096 persons for a period which is generally not exceeding 6 months.
A report of MEDU (Doctors for Human Rights) of June 2014, considered that over 1,000 homeless people assisted with MEDU mobile unit, about 56% were refugees or persons beneficiaries of International Protection. Many of them survive in shacks, in cardboard boxes, under blankets and sheets of newspaper. Romans know the sad view of endless rows of people homeless, sleeping on the ground, under papers or plastic bags in the cold and the rain, on the edge of the Termini Station.
In marginal areas of the city there is a huge mass of refugees completely invisible to Institutions and citizens who live just a few hundred meters from informal settlements inhabited by families and children. These are the so-called "invisible refugees" who have no place in reception centers and live in shelters without assistance, water sanitation services, electricity, etc. Most vulnerable groups such as children, victims of abuses pay the highest price of this precarious conditions.
Those area called "informal gatherings" are located in the neighborhoods of Romanina and Collatina and Ponte Mammolo where almost 2.000 people and families live in shameful conditions.
In Via delle Messi d'Oro in Ponte Mammolo lies the settlement (also known as the Community of Peace) founded in 2003; actually it is part of a larger settlement mainly inhabited by Roma families.
Ponte Mammolo gathering is composed of about 50 units, often they are made of bricks and the roof is made of different materials (such as plastic, metal, cardboard - in some cases shacks built with found flammable materials). The shelters are unsafe, very cold in winter and terribly hot in summer. No heating system is available nor electricity a part from a very small generator which serves a room in the camp used as common area (a small fridge, some chairs and tables, TV).
The shelters shall have no running water, bathrooms and electricity.
Some shelters have been marked with numbers during the frequent visits of the police and despite the fact that some of the inhabitants prove to be resident in the area, the area is considered irregular which prevent the inhabitants to get access to basic services such as sewage, electricity, water supply and so on.
The hygiene conditions of the area are precarious: piles of rubbish and plastic bottles are scattered around, especially in some areas of the gathering where people pay less attention to the hygiene.
In the settlement live between 80 and 100 people, over 90% are from Eritrea, almost all adults males, most of them have been recognized by the authorities as "political refugees" some of them are asylum seekers and others are beneficiaries of different kind of International Protection status.
None of them has a stable job, no prospects for economic improvement and integration opportunities. Every day, they move from the gathering looking for some daily work (irregular and underpaid) just enough to buy food. The interaction with the outside community is very limited: this is demonstrated by the very low level of knowledge of the Italian language, although many of them have been living in Italy since five years and more.
The Institutions do not have any action plan to improve the situation of these persons, and rare is the support offered by local associations. The Association "Cittadini del Mondo" has made over the years some medical visits to the inhabitants of the gathering. The association "MEDU -Doctors for Human Rights - has often visited the area and offered medical assistance, although sporadically.

PRIME Italia is working in Ponte Mammolo since 2012. In view of the initiatives already undertaken within the gathering, PRIME Italia intends to support the process of empowerment and enfranchisement of residents of Ponte Mammolo moving forward from the vicious cycle of social exclusion and poverty. To reach this goal, PRIME Italia will collaborate with the association "In Migrazione" who has an extensive experience in dealing with outreach units and cultural mediation.

Foreseen Activities

1.1 Base line survey of the available services (health, legal etc.) in the area provided by the local institution as well as by the associations. At the very beginning of the project, PRIME Italia will carry out a survey of the services available for asylum seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection in the City of Rome and in particular in the area of the Municipio V, where Ponte Mammolo is located. This base line survey will provide also important information on how and where those services are accessible (procedures, timing etc.).
1.2 Production of information/awareness material to be distributed to the refugees translated into native languages. It will be produced promotional material to be distributed to asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection during the outreach activities carried out by the Mobile Unit in the gathering. The material will be in Italian and Tigrinya and Amharic.
Moreover, it will be produced the material needed to monitor the project achievements. The norms on proper use of personal data will be applied as foreseen by the Italian Law.
Timing: the start-up will last 30 days and will take place in the first month of the project

2.1 Activation of outreach activities through a mobile unit service outreach activities is now widely used in the raising awareness activities and prevention on issues such as (drugs abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, prostitution and trafficking etc.) as well as to assist homeless. In recent years, outreach activities also aimed at assisting migrants and asylum seekers/refugees who often live in the streets in very bad conditions. Concrete and on-site actions such as medical assistance, have already carried out efficiently and effectively by many associations in Rome. Nonetheless, none of them have never focused their assistance on the issue of hospitality and tolerance, stimulating the beneficiaries to access the services available and to facilitate their gradual inclusion.
The project team will consist of two mediators, a coordinator and a local animator identified by the project partner "In Migrazione" who has an extensive experience in socio-legal orientation.
Timing: twice a week for 3 hours each

In particular, the Mobile unit will tend to:
- Establish trust among the destinatary and promote the project. This is a very sensitive activity because in it lies the future success of the project. Creating a positive relationship with the inhabitants of the gathering, gaining their trust will be the first step to render the intervention successful.
- Raise awareness and provide information and guidance to the services offered in the city
Activities carried out also through the distribution of information materials on public services active throughout the City of Rome - translated into major native languages (Tigrinya, Amharic).
- Cultural Mediation. The linguistic and cultural mediation is a key element to support the beneficiaries to carry out daily activities as well as searching job opportunities and get integrated in host community.
In particular, mediation will provide:
- Orientation and guidance. Specifically, the coordinator of the OU and the mediator will provide answers regarding legal guidance, supported employment and housing, as well as guidance to local services. Moreover, PRIME Italia thanks to the relationship already established with the inhabitants of Ponte Mammolo, will facilitate the smooth running of the activities in the gathering.
- Local Animation. It will be the task of the territorial organization of group activities necessary for the consolidation of a relationship of trust and conflict prevention to be held both inside and outside the gathering.
Timing: The OU will be inside the gatherings from 2nd to 7th month of project, twice a week for 3 hours each.

2.2 Psychological assistance
The relation with refugees and asylum seekers is inherently complex particularly in light of the trauma (memory disorders, concentration difficulties, flashbacks of bad memories of the past), which can prevent an individual to be fully aware of the tasks he has to carry out.
Psychological assistance is a key activity on which lies the whole possibility of success of all the services and activities provided.
The counseling will be provided by an expert in care of people with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders. He/she will set up a setting suitable and appropriate listening and emotional support of the beneficiaries. The intercultural psychological approach has a crucial basic assumption: it doesn't start from a theory of mind already preconceived, nor it is postulated a priori. It does not define the person by diagnostic categories already known and therefore does not interpret its operation basing on the clinician reference theory. The person becomes the privileged subject with who one builds and rebuilds through his suffering and his personal history.
Timing: An ad hoc psychological assistance will be provided, cases will be also referred to other specialists

3.1 The "Spazio per l'impiego" service - (job placement service)
This activity aims at providing guidance and orientation to refugees at the headquarters of PRIME Italy in Via Marsala 95 Rome. It is intended to help the refugees in job placement, starting from:
• Identification of expectations, skills and competencies that can be offered on the Italian labour market; facilitating the establishment of contacts with the Italian labour market, while encouraging their autonomy job research.
• Meetings to identify business needs and drafting of the Curriculum Vitae.
The meetings will be conducted in an atmosphere that aims to listening and sharing in order to establish a relationship of mutual trust. At the first meeting followed by a second during which, the CV will be updated, completed and processed.
• Support in finding employment, entering the CV database
Once entered the CV into the database, PRIME Italia will proceed to intersect demand and offer of labour.
• Creating contacts with firms and families and development agreements for the employment of refugees.
Timing: the "Spazio per l'impiego" is open to the public once a week, on Saturday from 10,00 AM to 1,00 PM. The service is carried out in back office from Monday to Friday

3.2 Activation of job internships in collaboration with local firms
The project foresees the identification of 10 persons who will benefit of an internship with Italian firms with whom PRIME Italia will sign partnership Agreement.
The average duration of the internship is 4 months for 20 hours a week.
Project staff will support the trainees in the accomplishment of all steps related to the internship start (production documents, start training, evaluation during the experience, sealing relationship with the company).
In order to facilitate the mobility in Rome, the recipients of paid internships or training courses will have a monthly subscription "Metrebus" for the duration of the internship/training.
Timing: 4 months for each of the 10 paid internships, from 3rd month.


3.3 Course of pre- driving school for refugees to face the theoretical test 3 courses in a year (3-4 months per course) twice a week for two levels: beginners and advanced. The second is thought for who has already advanced concepts of driving or has already a driving license of a country with which Italy does not have any agreement on converting it into the Italian once.
The courses are completely free. Once the participant is be able to face the test of theoretical exam (exam simulations quiz provided by the AC Roma will be used for this purpose) they will be registered at the exam which is held by the AC Roma. THE AUTOMOBIL CLUB ROME WILL SUPPORT THE COST OF 50 EXAMS.
Timing: 3 courses in a year (3-4 months per course) twice a week (two levels)

3.4 Housing support. In order to fully support an actual and concrete exit from the vicious cycle of poor living conditions and lack of social integration, it is necessary to support the inhabitant of Ponte Mammolo towards their housing autonomy. In this sense, PRIME Italia will identify 10 persons - among those considered able to move forward autonomously - who will benefit of an economic support to pay the rent of a private apartment. This financial support will not cover the 100% of the renting since the idea is to give a contribution (which will decrease month by month) to someone who already has the capacity to continue alone but need now, some additional support.
The identification of these ten persons will be carried out very carefully since it has to be evaluated the actual sustainability of such activities.
Moreover, PRIME Italia will provide:
• Orientation on the renting market and the rights and obligations of the lessee;
• Mediation with lessors;
• 10 rent-support (6 months with a decreasing value)
Timing: market orientation and mediation with lessors will be operative from the 3rd month to the 11th; the rent-supports will include 6 months from 75% to 30% of total rent for each of the 10 beneficiaries.

4. Monitoring and evaluation
At the beginning of the project, the staff will produce the monitoring tool which will consist of a questionnaire that will be submitted to the persons involved in the project. This tool will collect basic personal info of the destinatary of the action as well as some qualitative information able to describe the starting conditions (perception on living conditions, expectations, etc.).
This info will be then confronted with those collected during the project.
Interviews and focus groups will also help in monitoring the project progress in terms of what was expected.

The Nando Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant for this project. The larger goal is to support the process of empowerment and enfranchisement of residents of Ponte Mammolo moving forward from the vicious cycle of social exclusion and poverty.
"To facilitate the process of empowerment of people living in Ponte Mammolo gathering by promoting their socio-economic inclusion and housing autonomy"-
The EXPECTED RESULTS, according to the objectives of the project:
- 200 political refugees met and oriented on the Italian labour market at the Spazio per l'Impiego service; among those 20 are inhabitants of Ponte Mammolo gathering;
- 10 of them participate and successfully accomplish the 5 months internship at Italian firms;
- 10 of them enabled to exit the gathering and get a financial support to pay the rent of a private house.

The virtuous path that is proposed in this project will have a multiplier effect on new arrivals to the gathering who will be oriented and informed by PRIME Italia and its partner. Moreover, a positive effect which may be triggered by this intervention, consists in the Local Institutions involvement and positive commitment in putting in place concrete actions to guarantee dignity to persons who seeks asylum in Italy.

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