Homeless in Rome: census to give a fuller picture

by Silvana Calcagno - 2014.03.28
Homeless in Rome: census to give a fuller picture
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How many homeless people live in Rome, who are they and what do they need? These are some of the questions that 'RacCONTAMI 2014', an initiative to count the city's rough sleepers, tries to answer. It's the first census to count people of no fixed abode in Italy's capital and it took place between 17-19 March. About 1,200 volunteers and 400 social sector organisations were involved in the count.

During the night of 17 March, volunteers did a headcount of homeless people, including those staying in the city's dormitories or sleeping in cars, shacks or makeshift shelters. On the 18th and 19th, using the data from the initial count, questionnaires were carried out both in dormitories and on the streets. The 30-page survey asked about the state of health and the mental and psychological conditions of the homeless. It sought to identify the reasons for their condition, to understand what they want and the potential for them to return to work.

The volunteers who took part were mostly ordinary citizens, aged between 16 and 75, who underwent a training evening. They covered every street in Rome, meeting different people and listening to their stories, all of which were touching in different ways. For example, the woman from Eritrea: a political refugee with a degree who spends each day going from one office to another looking for work. Then there was the Filipino man who sells fish in the market to earn a few coins – and disdained the idea of begging. The 60-year-old said that his only physical ailment was a bad cough, which he himself associates with drinking too much – because outside at night when it's cold, a drink of whiskey with fellow countrymen is impossible to refuse. There are Italians too, such as the woman from Bari, who lost her husband and her job and is now dreaming of a new home.

The latest data from Istat, from 2012, counted 7,872 homeless people in Rome. The RacCONTAMI 2014 census will update those figures. They will help to provide a deeper understanding of the living conditions of those without a home, and to scientifically analyse the phenomenon of extreme marginality. The data can be compared to statistics from other organisations and other cities. The overall goal is to improve services, support and policies, and to curb a phenomenon seen by all on a daily basis, but often ignored.

Published in Homelessness.
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