Homeless people exist. Calling them by their name is a question of humanity and fraternity, recognizing them with an ID and personal documents means building a healthy, united, open and creative society.
Without residency there are no real opportunities for civic, social or cultural promotion.
Residency could be the hand offered to restart their journey.
August Montaruli interviews sister Cristina Conti DC, Service coordinator of “La Carità di Santa Luisa”, known as “Charité”, at the 24 Nizza street in Turin. Many volunteers work at the day Centre for and with homeless people, among them Daughters of Charity.
Sister Cristina, how have you organised the service during these times of pandemic and lockdown?
We have tried to apply procedures that ensure the highest safety for everybody, without diminishing the value of relationships, care and attention for the homeless people we shelter. Write it down in capitals: People, because it is important to highlight their humanity, individuality, peculiarities… they are not a category, an anonymous multitude. We are all special. Everybody could be helped to value our life in an objective way, giving it a renewed feeling, even during this time of pandemic.
How many are your friends and, how do you support them?
There are so many, the number changes, but looking at all our services, we are talking about hundreds of friends each week, and sadly, thousands every year. One of the traits of our service is mobility. We meet many people who only come once, passing through Turin. Every second is important. Every smile. Every word can make a difference for that person. It has happened, you know : some of them came back to say thank you because a word said at one point helped them to change course.
We might have an outdated image of homeless people. In some cases, even a bit “romantic”: that it was their life choice, and not a consequence of their circumstances. Maybe it’s time to say who they are.
That could be a novel! They are so diverse… In fact, the result would be a poetry collection, because our friendsthey make me think of poetry. Sometimes it is not easy to understand them, their lines are slippery, it’s difficult to follow them. But if you let those word to conjure echoes and references , you start to understand them bit by bit.
Poetry because with them we go through all ages, languages, genders… with them we travel around the world every day… Poetry because we are really passionate about their lives, their stories and only a few did really choose freely this path. Often, they decide to leave behind difficult, precarious situations, suffering, violence, misery. They make the decision, but it is a decision forced by the circumstances.
Don’t you think that they can also become a resource due to what they have learnt from their experiences??
I just say this: many volunteers working on our service ask to bring other people to experience it. Mostly among the numerous young volunteers. Well, this attraction stems from the character of our friends, the homeless people we shelter. Among them there are masters of life,., Dealing with people living on the streets makes us think. We need to study their experience to devise survival strategies.
If you could solve this situation magically, where would you start? What would be your first action?
As you mentioned before, I would promote their own resources so they could use them in specific activities. All of them need a house but the first thing they say is “let me do something”. Our hands speak for ourselves and our actions shape our mind and spirit. “Doing” expresses our identity and dignity. It helps not to become obsessed with the problems, obstacles and humiliations lived.
Homeless people don’t vote, is that why their problem risk not being resolved?
Those without ID don’t vote., those without an address don’t vote. hat might be the factIt might be true that they don’t have anywhere to live, but that doesn’t mean that someone“disappears” from the official records just because they have some difficulties and can’t leave this situation. A homeless person if they are not registered in Turin can’t renew his or her ID without paying a fine (before or after, trebled). Without talking about the forced expropriations… If you have no money on your pocket, you leave the local offices to look for it. There are two ways, both humiliating: you either beg or you steal it. “Nemo” meaning “nobody” was the nickname of our latest friend who we accompanied to the register office. After much insisting t, he managed to skip the fine, but now he’s worried about the consequences. Why is this happening? A society struggling to call its children by their name is a sick society, a society on its way to failure and disintegration. This should lead to electoral consenquences. There are homeless people, thousands. Making them feel part of society is in the interest of all. That way we will build a fairer and genuine world.
I’m very grateful for your willingness to appear on this space. These interviews aim to have an effect on those who have the duty of thinking and deciding about the future.
Article sent by the Daughters of Charity of “La Carità di Santa Luisa”, a day centre for and with homeless people, known as “Charité” in Turin, Italy.