For the homeless, the street is a cage, the home is freedom

People homeless they live locked up in a plurality of cages, invisible but tangible, from which it seems impossible to get out. Guarantee him one property in which to live, following the Housing First model, is the most effective tool to give them back freedom and the dignity they deserve.

The road as a cage

We should try to imagine the homeless people like some animals in cage. THE roads of the city, which has always been synonymous with freedom, like a big one cage open sky. Lives constantly under the gaze of millions of unknown eyes; whether they are indifferent, curious or compassionate little changes.

As strong as the image may be, it is perhaps the one that best describes the condition of the people that populate, almost always invisibly, the roads and the ravines of our cities.

Only apparently free, to move, to decide their time, they are actually locked up in one prigione with multiple faces.

There is, first of all, the inner one of their psychosis or their pathological addiction. It is very rare to find homeless who do not have some mental disorder or who are not victims of drug or alcohol addiction.

Then there is the cage of ignored rights and deficient services, in whose meshes they end up being entangled and from which they often decide to leave permanently, ending up living our cities like ghosts. Services that are often distant, ineffective, inaccessible, unable to network, themselves stigmatizing.

There is the cage, almost imperceptible, made by the indifference or annoyance of a society that not only decides not to see certain realities, but continues to consider them an inevitable plague.

There is cage, perhaps even more deleterious, built by those who have decided to do rise to the homeless as a symbol of poverty, to be alleviated, of course, but not to be eliminated.

In their condition, relations with others are reduced to almost nothing. There is so the cage of loneliness. Almost completely devoid of supportive social networks, no longer family ties or solid friendships, the homeless people only in a few cases do they try to overcome it through fragile friendships, built on that solidarity of despair that at times ends up assuming regressive characteristics.

La cage it is a space in which love, understood as that plurality of affectionate gestures, closeness, intimacy, human warmth, hugs, ends up not having the right to citizenship. Prevailing are pain, fear, constant fear of being robbed or attacked, the will to escape from the gaze of others, the painful need to escape from reality. Hence the attempt to protect oneself by erecting a mental barrier between oneself and the outside world - with the onset or worsening of the most diverse psychoses - or by taking refuge in the harp of Freudian memory, such as alcohol or drugs.

But what is perhaps most striking is the nature of this cage. As for the animals of a zoo, for which it is impossible to conceive a different life, elsewhere, so there road is for i homeless a place from which it seems very difficult to get out.

The house as an instrument of freedom. The Housing First model

It is from here, from the only apparent inevitability of this condition, that our desire to find a different key to give them back their freedom. From the belief that thehomelessness not only must it be opposed, but that it is possible and necessary to work to overcome it. The phenomenon of homeless - this is a decisive point - although declined each time individually, it is a reality with precise social causes and therefore requires systemic responses.

The tool of the freedom it has the banal form of a key that opens the door of one property. Although the statement is semantically a paradox, the experience of several years passed in road as operators, in a frantic attempt to help the homeless to take back their lives, convinced us that the only way to free them from cage, both invisible and very tangible, both give them the opportunity to return to live one closed space, protected, intimate.

Give one property to give back the freedom.

La property as the first place to recover a space all to oneself, that private and intimate sphere whose existence and protection is a condition of personal dignity. Where you can perform the most elementary gestures of everyday life, which are then the weaving of a life: cooking, loving, resting, loving each other, meeting loved ones. Do it serenely.

Therefore, as PsyPlus, we decided to try to overturn the approach still prevailing in the management ofhomelessness, which instead of considering the property as a prerequisite it places it on top of a mountain to climb. An approach that almost always turns out to be unsuccessful, favoring chronicity, the multiplication of vicious circles and distrust in a fragmented system.

We decided to do it by marrying theHousing First. A model introduced in 1992 in the United States by psychiatrist Sam Tsemberis and which since then, as demonstrated by many experiences and researches at an international level, guarantees participants greater housing stability, also reaching homeless chronic, increases the willingness to participate and terminate therapeutic treatments, improving health conditions and significantly reducing the consumption of alcohol and drugs as well as contacts with justice.

The secret of Housing First is understanding that the availability of a home to live in and be responsible for, with the sense of existential security and control that this entails, is crucial. As much as the constant support of a team of professionals who facilitate access to services, rights, benefits, always promoting the self-determination of the person and the progressive return to social life. It is the most effective way to free homeless people from the multiple cages of which they are prisoners, giving them back freedom and the dignity they deserve.

 Giulio Ciucci

 * Notes on the author: Giulio Ciucci is a PhD in Sociology. After working in the immigration sector, collaborating first with Caritas and then with the International Organization for Migration, for some years he has been working with homeless people as a street worker for the Municipality of Rome. Partner of PsyPlus since 2019, he is currently dedicating himself to the development of the Area dedicated to social inclusion and to the fight against serious adult marginalization with the aim of carrying out Housing First projects in the cities of Rome and Pescara.

Homeless, Street, Home, Freedom, Homelessness

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