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Housing First Rome, a singular partnership to finish homelessness in Rome

For over 35 years, “Mario” had put his coronary heart into his job as a waiter — generally working as much as 14 hours every day — earlier than quitting to run his personal bar. Nevertheless, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe, it struck Italy notably arduous. On March 9, 2020, Mario closed his bar after the federal government ordered all non-essential companies to shutter. With out a job or revenue, he ended up on the road. On account of the pandemic, round 426,000 different Italians misplaced jobs or companies, exacerbating a persistent homelessness disaster that already existed as a consequence of lack of inexpensive housing and deep revenue disparity.

Just a few weeks later, the variety of folks in Rome experiencing homelessness — which incorporates dwelling in insecure or insufficient housing — rose as excessive as 8,000 in a merciless twist, this put them at greater danger of catching the illness answerable for crippling the financial system and inserting them on this precarious place within the first place.

In a poignant interview, Mario recounts how frightened he was. “I began to be afraid… I continued to be afraid for a very long time.” His “residence” was a bench and for about six weeks, he was uncovered to the weather, and his life degraded.

Luckily, he realized in regards to the Group of Sant’Egidio, a non-profit group engaged in Rome and in additional than 70 nations everywhere in the world supporting poor and susceptible folks. By way of them he enrolled in Housing First Rome, a singular pilot program powered by volunteers that follows the Housing First precept of prioritizing everlasting housing because the preliminary step towards re-integrating folks experiencing homelessness again into society. With the aim of serving to contributors acquire financial autonomy, this system locations beneficiaries in flats beneath market price, then works with different non-governmental organizations to supply extra providers, equivalent to employment help, healthcare and even assist acquiring a primary revenue — a month-to-month authorities stipend launched in Italy in 2019 as a security web for low-income residents.

When a volunteer requested Mario if he wished a job and an condo, he was skeptical. “Whenever you’re homeless, every part appears muffled, every part appears unfaithful,” he explains. However lower than a month later he was dwelling in his personal condo and had a part-time job, his first step towards dwelling independently once more. With the stress and anxiousness of homelessness lifted, he’s extra optimistic and in a position to give attention to getting a full-time job. Much more considerably, he has regained his misplaced confidence and emotional wellbeing. “I firmly consider that tomorrow might be higher than in the present day.”

Cisco commits $1 million to pilot the Housing First strategy in Rome

Having a protected place to name house is greater than a necessity: it’s a primary human proper. But globally, homelessness stays a fancy and protracted social subject. The United Nations estimates the variety of folks dwelling in insufficient housing, equivalent to a automobile or tent, as excessive as 1.6 billion worldwide, however Cisco sees homelessness as a solvable subject and housing as crucial.

A young boy with the CEO of Cisco
Younger Syrian refugee giving Chuck Robbins a present picture of Group of Sant’Egidio beneficiaries at a dinner on the non-profit

In 2019, Agostino Santoni, then head of Cisco Italy, witnessed up shut the devastating results Rome’s excessive price of housing had on the rising i senza dimora (the homeless) inhabitants. Impressed by Cisco’s $50 million dedication in 2018 to deal with homelessness in Santa Clara County, California in a partnership with nonprofit Vacation spot: Residence, Agostino requested, why not in Rome? He requested how Cisco might help Group of Sant’Egidio, which Cisco staff had supported for years, to use classes realized from the partnership with Vacation spot: Residence and its profitable implementation of the Housing First mannequin. Rome — with excessive housing prices, a hovering homeless inhabitants and sluggish authorities response — was a really perfect location for testing the identical strategy.

Chuck Robbins, Cisco’s Chair and Chief Government Officer, had an opportunity to watch the problem in Rome firsthand in July 2019 whereas attending a management convention, the place he publicly introduced the Housing First Rome’s launch. The announcement marked Cisco’s dedication to ending homelessness in Rome with a $1 million funding over 4 years, the majority overlaying housing and associated prices. Know-how, coaching packages, and volunteers to supply skills-based and different providers, are additionally a part of the initiative.

Cisco partnered with two non-profit associations with intensive expertise with homelessness in Italy: Group of Sant’Egidio, to supply the housing and different social providers, and The Italian Federation of Organizations for Homeless Folks (fio.PSD), to observe, consider, and observe the pilot program’s progress, in addition to present greatest practices and coaching on making use of the Housing First mannequin in Rome. fio.PSD represents 143 organizations that work within the area of homelessness and is the one Italian group licensed by the Hub Housing First Europe.

Housing First volunteers placing a human face on homelessness

Even earlier than the Housing First Rome launch, folks experiencing homelessness already knew Group of Sant’Egidio and its revolutionary reduction packages; its volunteers are all the time looking for potential beneficiaries on the streets, in shelters, and in soup kitchens. And whereas Covid-19 has triggered Rome’s homeless inhabitants to swell since early 2020, many individuals had been dwelling on the streets for years.

For instance, nearly three many years in the past, a job loss pushed “Carmine” into homelessness. Throughout that point, whereas he lived in his automobile after which on the streets, he bought to know Group of Sant’Egidio. After the Housing First Rome launch, he and his companion, “Carlotta,” utilized for a housing as a pair after dwelling aside in several elements of town. Though inserting {couples} and households collectively is extra difficult, Carmine and Carlotta ultimately moved into their very own condo, an necessary first step towards normalizing their lives.

Previous to that, the couple nearly misplaced hope. Filippo Sbrana, head of Housing First Rome, said:

“Carmine stated to me, ‘It was as if I had a half a life earlier than… one thing was all the time lacking. Because of a home, you are able to do many issues: handle your well being, search for work. You may ask for and procure your rights. As a result of on the streets, you possibly don’t have the paperwork. You don’t have an deal with; you’ll be able to’t get the fundamental revenue.’”

Earlier than the condo, Carlotta as soon as even contemplated leaping off a bridge into the Tiber River that flows all through Rome. In the meantime, Carmine suffered his personal despair. “I had fallen into such a state of melancholy I didn’t need to communicate to anybody. I used to say, ‘I’ve had sufficient, I don’t care about life anymore.’”

Now, with a spot of their very own, issues have modified. Within the spirit of gratitude, Carmine volunteers in a foster residence as his method of giving again. “Now I’m proud to assist, whereas earlier than I used to be the one which was helped.”


Learn the way Carmine and Carlotta acquired housing. Full video right here.

A scalable and sustainable mannequin for housing packages

Cisco makes social investments by means of partnerships which can be catalytic, such because the Housing First Rome initiative. This allows companions to check new fashions and obtain a a lot higher affect by means of the event and implementation of scalable packages, which may then be leveraged for replication.

Midway by means of Cisco’s four-year dedication, the initiative demonstrates nice promise in assembly its aim to position 41 folks into everlasting properties by 2023. Figures from fio.PSD present that as of August 2021, 23 folks have moved into 10 flats, and a couple of of these gained autonomy by discovering jobs and transferring elsewhere, leaving flats out there for different beneficiaries. As well as, this system has served over 240 folks with social providers, employment help, and abilities coaching. However the initiative has had challenges.

Community of Sant’Egidio volunteers interacting with a person experiencing homelessness
Group of Sant’Egidio volunteers with an individual experiencing homelessness

To start with, simply finding inexpensive housing was problematic. The important thing, nonetheless, was in collaboration. Figuring out an actual property company that shared Housing First Rome’s imaginative and prescient and dedication was important to the initiative’s success. Talking on behalf of the Cisco Italy workforce, Gianna Li Calzi defined that “for Group of Sant’Egidio, discovering the homes was at first a giant drawback, which the company solved rapidly.”

One other impediment was working round Covid curfews and lockdowns. The Webex collaboration resolution offered by Cisco was helpful for facilitating companion conferences and on-line interviews between Housing First volunteers and enrollees, a practical step in sustaining Covid-19 security.

Nevertheless, this system is on observe to satisfy or exceed its objectives. One in all its targets is to problem others to make a distinction — to observe in Cisco’s footsteps and help the Housing First mannequin elsewhere. In truth, it has taken off in different Italian cities — from Turin within the North to Ragusa within the South — and with extra funding the initiative may be scaled in Rome to assist much more folks like Mario, Carmine, and Carlotta.

As a nod of acknowledgement and appreciation, Mario mirrored, “Lengthy story quick: I (lived) on a bench and I didn’t anticipate something. What I’ve now, it’s because of Cisco and Group of Sant’Egidio.” However behind the cash and expertise are the devoted volunteers who make rising and sustaining this system doable, to proceed giving these needing a house a second likelihood.

Wish to assist deal with homelessness in your group? To get began, try our Working collectively to deal with homelessness. You may learn extra about what we’ve realized in Santa Clara County and get concepts for how one can make a distinction in your personal communities.



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