Homeless people of Rome: Urban poverty in a rich country

Monday, 18 February 2013

I just express my good wishes to you who do not have a dinner table or a roof, not even tonight, not even receive that compassion we are able to reserve to helpless animals (nothing to complain about it...), but that to some human beings is forbidden…

Around 10,000 homeless people are currently sleeping on the streets of Rome. There is an increase of about 1,000 people sleeping on the streets each year. The actual number of the city’s homeless is likely to be much higher than the official statistics due to the difficulty of obtaining a realistic estimate. Around 55 per cent of Rome’s homeless live in the area comprising the historic centre, Flaminio, Parioli, Pinciano, Salario, Trieste, Borgo and Prati, while others choose areas around the Tiburtina, Tuscolana and Ostiense railway stations. Over 65 per cent of the homeless are over 36 years old, and 75 per cent are men, according to Caritas. Of all foreign homeless, Romanians (3th and 6th pictures) the largest group (40 per cent) followed by the Polish (7 per cent) and the Ukranians (5 per cent).

Many homeless keep all their possessions with them because they obviously have no access to storage (see pic.8).  Since they have no access to or capability to get to a shelter and possible bathing, or access to toilets and laundry facilities, their hygiene is lacking. It is a very complex scenario, many are immigrants who have no money to gain a shelter and have to adapt, others are homeless in the strict sense, they had an home, they lost it. They often lost their relatives or have lost contact with them. They often don’t have a reason to remain in the society that somehow has expelled them out. Major reasons and causes for homelessness as documented by many reports and studies include unemployment for the most part.


Poverty, caused by many factors including unemployment and underemployment, is not the only reason though. It is the principle of course, often together with other factors. Lack of accessible healthcare is a big problem for people living in the streets. They often get sick and even die because of this. Italy is still a country that provides healthcare for all people for free. But in recent times these rights have been severely attacked by politicians who follow an “American” idea of privatizing all  social services. Religious traditions here very often express themselves into very conservative politics but are also the  basis for the caritative culture that takes care of such a problem almost as unique approach. Caritas and Church-related organizations  are often the only to do something. A big percentage of homeless, men and women, have serious psychiatric disorders or problems.

Disability, especially where disability services are non-existent or poor performing, is another condition to be seen. In Italy yet the support of family is very relevant, if you loose it it is highly possible that your life takes a bad direction. Welfare is not provided, just basic services are (at least, since the same is not granted in many non European countries) but it is very lacking into gaining these people to a “normal” life or even only to help for simple means of subsistence.  People, common people, voluntaries are often the only to whom be thankful, where the institutions are totally absent.

©2013 Marco Palladino

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