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 day by day — earlier than quitting to run his personal bar. Nevertheless, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe, it struck Italy notably onerous. On March 9, 2020, Mario closed his bar after the federal government ordered all non-essential companies to shutter. And not using a job or earnings, he ended up on the road. On account of the pandemic, round 426,000 different Italians misplaced jobs or companies, exacerbating a power homelessness disaster that already existed as a result of lack of reasonably priced housing and deep earnings disparity.

Just a few weeks later, the variety of folks in Rome experiencing homelessness — which incorporates residing in insecure or insufficient housing — rose as excessive as 8,000 in a merciless twist, this put them at larger threat of catching the illness answerable for crippling the financial system and putting 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 “dwelling” was a bench and for about six weeks, he was uncovered to the weather, and his life degraded.

Thankfully, he realized in regards to the Group of Sant’Egidio, a non-profit group engaged in Rome and in additional than 70 international locations everywhere in the world supporting poor and susceptible folks. Via 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 purpose of serving to individuals acquire financial autonomy, this system locations beneficiaries in residences under market price, then works with different non-governmental organizations to supply further companies, akin to employment help, healthcare and even assist acquiring a fundamental earnings — 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 needed a job and an condominium, 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 residing in his personal condominium and had a part-time job, his first step towards residing independently once more. With the stress and nervousness of homelessness lifted, he’s extra optimistic and in a position to concentrate on getting a full-time job. Much more considerably, he has regained his misplaced confidence and emotional wellbeing. “I firmly consider that tomorrow can be higher than right now.”

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

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

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 value of housing had on the rising i senza dimora (the homeless) inhabitants. Impressed by Cisco’s $50 million dedication in 2018 to handle homelessness in Santa Clara County, California in a partnership with nonprofit Vacation spot: Dwelling, Agostino requested, why not in Rome? He requested how Cisco may assist Group of Sant’Egidio, which Cisco staff had supported for years, to use classes realized from the partnership with Vacation spot: Dwelling and its profitable implementation of the Housing First mannequin. Rome — with excessive housing prices, a hovering homeless inhabitants and sluggish authorities response — was a great location for testing the identical strategy.

Chuck Robbins, Cisco’s Chair and Chief Government Officer, had an opportunity to look at 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 companies, 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 companies, and The Italian Federation of Organizations for Homeless Folks (fio.PSD), to observe, consider, and monitor 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 subject 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 aid 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 induced Rome’s homeless inhabitants to swell since early 2020, many individuals had been residing on the streets for years.

For instance, nearly three a long time 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 acquired to know Group of Sant’Egidio. After the Housing First Rome launch, he and his associate, “Carlotta,” utilized for a housing as a pair after residing aside in several components of town. Though putting {couples} and households collectively is extra sophisticated, Carmine and Carlotta finally moved into their very own condominium, 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 mentioned 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 possibly can 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 tackle; you may’t get the essential earnings.’”

Earlier than the condominium, 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 despair I didn’t wish to converse 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 dwelling as his means of giving again. “Now I’m proud to assist, whereas earlier than I used to be the one which was helped.”


Find out how Carmine and Carlotta acquired housing. Full video right here.

A scalable and sustainable mannequin for housing packages

Cisco makes social investments by way of partnerships which are catalytic, such because the Housing First Rome initiative. This permits companions to check new fashions and obtain a a lot larger influence by way of the event and implementation of scalable packages, which may then be leveraged for replication.

Midway by way of Cisco’s four-year dedication, the initiative demonstrates nice promise in assembly its purpose to put 41 folks into everlasting properties by 2023. Figures from fio.PSD present that as of August 2021, 23 folks have moved into 10 residences, and a pair of of these gained autonomy by discovering jobs and transferring elsewhere, leaving residences accessible for different beneficiaries. As well as, this system has served over 240 folks with social companies, employment help, and expertise 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

At first, simply finding reasonably priced housing was problematic. The important thing, nevertheless, 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 group, Gianna Li Calzi defined that “for Group of Sant’Egidio, discovering the homes was at first an enormous downside, which the company solved rapidly.”

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

Nevertheless, this system is on monitor to fulfill or exceed its objectives. One among its aims is to problem others to make a distinction — to observe in Cisco’s footsteps and assist the Housing First mannequin elsewhere. The truth is, it has taken off in different Italian cities — from Turin within the North to Ragusa within the South — and with further funding the initiative might 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 brief: I (lived) on a bench and I didn’t count on something. What I’ve now, it’s because of Cisco and Group of Sant’Egidio.” However behind the cash and know-how are the devoted volunteers who make rising and sustaining this system potential, to proceed giving these needing a house a second probability.

Need to assist tackle homelessness in your group? To get began, try our Working collectively to handle homelessness. You possibly can 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.

E-book: https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en_us/about/csr/experiences/destinationhome-practicalguide-ebook.pdf

Infographic: https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en_us/about/csr/experiences/destinationhome-practicalguide-infographic.pdf

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