And Finally….Italy’s Homeless Have Their Own ‘Michelin Guide’
(Akron/Tire Review – Reuters) It looks like a guidebook, with its glossy pages, fold-out maps, and tips on where to eat and sleep in Rome. The only difference is that its readers are homeless. The new edition of what its authors have dubbed a “Michelin Guide for the Poor” was presented on Jan. 10 as promoters warned that the ranks of the have-nots in Italy’s capital were growing.
The guide, created by the Sant’ Egidio Catholic peace organization, is divided into sections covering the basic needs of the homeless or poor – “Where to Eat,” “Where to Sleep,” “Where to Wash Up.”
According to Sant’ Egidio, which has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize for its charity work and international peace negotiations, there are some 7,000 homeless people in Rome.
Some 2,000 sleep on the street, not far from luxury hotels and world-renowned monuments like the Forum and the Colosseum. Some 3,000 sleep in charity shelters and 2,000 others in dilapidated abandoned buildings.
“Rome is ‘home’ to some 10% of people living in extreme cases of poverty in Italy,” said Mario Marazziti, a founding member of the Sant’ Egidio group.
The numbers have swelled after two waves of enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and 2007 relaxed entry requirements for immigrants.
The 176-page guidebook, titled simply “Dove” (Where), tells the poor and homeless where they can get free meals – either at Catholic parishes or city-run centers or mobile soup kitchens, which are marked by a drawing of a small sandwich on the map.
Volunteer organizations where the homeless can either spend the night or bathe – marked by a small shower head on the map – are also listed with instructions on how to get there on foot or public transport.
The guide, now in its 17th edition and which has spawned copycat editions in four other Italian cities as well as in France, Spain and Austria, also contains pages on legal and medical assistance.
“This is such a good guide that we give it to everyone coming out of jail,” said Raffaella Milano, Rome’s councilwoman for social services.
“People who leave jail and have no place to go have to get back on their feet. This guidebook has become precious for them and precious for us as public funds have been cut,” she said.
As the cost of living in Italy has grown, so has the number of people who have homes but go to charity soup kitchens to eat several times a day, Marazzitti said.
The authors of the guide, which has an initial printing of 13,000 this year, made it a point to keep Rome’s many cultural sites on the map.
“As the poor go from shelter to soup kitchen, we think it is nice and uplifting for them to know what they are passing,” Marazzitti said.