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Rome at night is scary and sometimes in certain “good” neighborhoods you can meet someone who – as the snobs who live there say – should not be in certain areas. But Giuly, “professional” tramp, was able to live in a neighborhood where the word ‘homeless’ is banned. He arrived in a private street slowly, one step at a time because of his lame foot, looking for a sidewalk where to sleep. Not a comfortable bed, not even a mattress, just a piece of concrete to put a cardboard for the night.

Giuly is no longer young, and despite many wanderings have marked his face, his blue eyes are still full of life, a life that he shares with the sidewalks. His life is a slap to all those who are entrenched in their selfishness, which is scarier than his wanderings.

But it is no longer possible to ignore; it does not solve the problem, because the “invisible” ones are becoming more and more visible. To get an idea of how many homeless people live in Rome, in June 2014 the foundation Rodolfo de Benedetti showed the results of the first census entitled “racCONTAMI2014 – 1st homeless people census in Rome”, taken by 1,175 volunteers between citizens and experts in the social sector, who handed out a questionnaire to the homeless people.

The protagonists of the census were the homeless, the ones sleeping in the streets or in places that have not the characteristics of a home, or in homeless shelters; both Italian and foreign, regular or not. The data collected show a capital that is the house of 3258 homeless – 1,569 of them live in the streets and the other 1,869 in the shelters. Only in the center of Rome there are 774 homeless.

But where do they come from? On the streets, people detected are predominantly from Europe (69%), followed by the ones from Africa (22%), from India and Pakistan (4%), from South America (3%) and from Asia (1%), while in the shelters the Italian presence prevails (37%), followed by Afghanistan, Asian and Romanian. The average age is over 35 years.

The census has also offered the opportunity to reflect on the reasons that caused their vagrancy: the prevailing causes were the loss of employment, the eviction and the absence of strong family relationships, in addition to health problems, lack of the residency permit, release from prison, addiction to drugs and alcohol. For a few ones it was even a “free” lifestyle choice, although we should reflect on the concept of freedom of choice.

Another serious factor is homeless’ loneliness. In most cases (85%), they are single, divorced or widowed. They have few people to call friends and in case of need it is difficult for them to ask for help. They spend most of their day in the deepest marginalization. We live in a cynical and indifferent world, always in a hurry, instead we should stop and think that “in every situation none is our friend if we don’t have a friendly face”, as St. Augustine said.

Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo

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