The Follow up study in Milan

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					Working Paper for EUROHOME-IMPACT Project (The Housing Dimension of Welfare
Reform) - Contract No. HPSE-CT-199-00038 RESEARCH DG



Re-housing homeless people. A Follow up study in
Milan
Antonio Tosi




Deliverable No. 7


September 2002




DIAP, Politecnico di Milano
Via Bonardi 3
20133 Milan


antonio.tosi@polimi.it



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Table of contents


Introduction ___________________________________________________________________________ 3
Part 1. The rehousing project and its local and national context _________________________________ 7
  The national welfare system ___________________________________________________________ 7
  The housing system and policies _______________________________________________________ 10
  Social services and the homeless _______________________________________________________ 14
  The local welfare and services for the homeless in Milan ___________________________________ 20
Part 2: The follow-up study ______________________________________________________________ 25
  The projects ________________________________________________________________________ 25
    Cena dell‟Amicizia _________________________________________________________________ 26
    Caritas Network ___________________________________________________________________ 28
  Methodology of research _____________________________________________________________ 30
  Results ____________________________________________________________________________ 35
    1. Characteristics of persons interviewed ________________________________________________ 35
    2. Social reintegration: autonomy and quality of life _______________________________________ 39
    3. Rehousing and the re-integration process______________________________________________ 44
    4. Experiences with support provided and needed _________________________________________ 49
    5. Potential and limitations of “individual reintegration plans” _______________________________ 51
    6. Current support: requirements and context ____________________________________________ 54
Conclusions __________________________________________________________________________ 56
References ___________________________________________________________________________ 68




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Introduction

1. The research project in Milan regards the rehousing and social reintegration processes of
homeless persons which have been supported in their resettlement by voluntary agencies. A
part of the persons interviewed have been (or where) involved in „individual reintegration
plans‟, usually starting from situations of extreme deprivation. All the persons interviewed
are presently living in ordinary housing accommodation (flats). The research focus is the role
that rehousing plays in the reintegration of homeless persons into community/society:
emphasis is on the whole of the reintegration/reinclusion processes, rather than on rehousing
in itself - trying to understand the various reintegration experiences, the different types of
reintegration obtained, and the role the new accommodation plays in the reinclusion process.



2. In order to make clear our research approach, reference must be made to the current debate
on social reintegration of homeless persons. The starting point may be the idea - expressed
by Busch-Geertsema with reference to projects in Germany - that “the integration of
homeless people should be facilitated by the provision of the homeless with normal and
cheap housing at normal building standard, with usual tenancy agreements etc.” “Where re-
                                                                                            3
housing of homeless people [is] supported actively by targeted projects and programmes a
great majority of those re-housed [are] able to sustain their tenancy”. “Creation of normal
housing for long-term homeless persons, parallel reduction in places at the institution,
provision of home-based aftercare for those in flats, institutional separation of flat-letting and
support services, co-operation with „conventional‟ housing enterprises on that basis, and
finally the principle of independent living in flats (not in shelters) as a form of learning by
doing. The basic principle underlying the support services provided by social workers was to
strengthen the existing competencies and resources of former homeless persons, i. e.
empowerment of those concerned”. The model is supposed to apply even to long term
homeless, or to situations of extreme marginalisation, and to represent an alternative to
other/conventional methods. “One of the objectives was to show that extensive social
integration is possible even after many years of homelessness, and despite a low capacity for
self-help, or a lack of personal prospects”. “Focus was placed on selecting people who had
been in a shelter for an extremely long time, or who were especially disadvantaged - people
for whom conventional methods and assistance aimed at integration had not been successful”
(Busch-Geertsema 2000b).


3. This model is one of a range of models which are at stake in the practice and in the debate
on the social reintegration of homeless persons, and it implies criticism of some „specialist‟
approaches (for instance some versions of the „staircase approach‟). The current debate and
social workers experience has made clear potential and limitations of the various models. Yet
the value of normal forms of accommodation in reintegration processes is usually
recognised, independently from the approach adopted, and the idea does not imply any
specific view about how normal housing is/should be linked to the reintegration process.


4. The meaning of this idea must be appraised with reference to the critical points of the
debate on homelessness and the reintegration of homeless persons (Tosi 1999, Tosi 1997):


(a) The notion of (re)integration and the role of housing in reintegration processes. All the
models share the idea that the problem is one of reintegration into society/community and
that this implies action on both the housing and the social side. One issue is the relationship
between the two dimensions, and the importance given to each. If the ultimate aim is social
reintegration, then accommodation must be viewed as an ingredient of the social
reintegration process, to be conceived on the basis of its effectiveness in the reintegration
process. Settlement should be intended as “the movement of a homeless person or family out
of homelessness into sustainable housing, self sufficiency and independent living,
appropriate to each person‟s ability and needs, with support as necessary” (Higgins 2000).
This may imply the idea that alternative forms of accommodation (other than ordinary
housing) may be appropriate.


(b) The involvement of long-term/extremely deprived homeless persons in the resettlement
projects. The notion of (re)insertion assumes different meanings for persons strongly
marginalised and/or at advanced stages in the process of social exclusion, characterised by
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multiple deprivation and who may present symptoms of desocialisation, etc. In order to deal
with the reintegration problems of these persons the idea of multi-dimensional, individually
contracted reintegration plans has been developed.

While for other groups of homeless population, intervention may be (relatively) sectoral -
start from or centre on a particular dimension of integration: housing, for instance -, for
situations of serious marginalisation, intervention is likely to be stronger and decidedly
multi-dimensional in character.

With reference to these persons it would be questionable to define homelessness as “the
absence of a permanent flat of one‟s own”. In any case, the persons responsible for the
programmes for their reintegration would not define their programmes or services as of “re-
housing” - they would rather think of it as of re-inclusion into society/community or social
reintegration. In these cases too, accommodation is definitely a central part of intervention in
the path to autonomy, but it is generally felt that it must form part of a broader plan of
support, that the best approach is to tackle all the various types of hardship that led a person
to fall first into social exclusion, simultaneously, albeit gradually.

(c) The question of relative autonomy/relative reintegration. According to many services,
relative autonomy/reintegration may be an appropriate outcome for persons affected by
strong marginalisation processes, or it may be a realistic aim. „Relative‟ means
personalisation of the project and attempts to recover abilities consistent with the condition
of the individual. Allowance must be made - avoiding an ideal reintegration model - for the
value of partial or „precarious‟ reintegration, which does not correspond to full
independence. The value and risks of this approach are evident (risks: stabilisation in assisted
forms of living, hindering further steps towards autonomy etc.). This idea determines the
notion of „success‟ to which reference is made in the project. Moreover, in this perspective,
protected forms of accommodation may appear as preferable. Protection however does not
imply any specific form of housing (special housing), it may also be provided with/in
ordinary housing, and much of the debate is precisely about the advantages/disadvantages of
combining protection with special vs. ordinary housing.

5. On the basis of this debate, the definition of normal/permanent housing appears
problematic. According to the initial proposal for this follow-up study, “housing may refer
either to dwellings in mainstream housing or accommodation of a more targeted nature, but it
should be meant for permanent occupation and have a permanent contract" (Busch-
Geertsema 2000a). As is evident from above, however, „normal‟, „permanent‟,
„ordinary/mainstream housing‟ etc. may be different dimensions, and their overlapping is a
crucial issue. In the actual practice, what is meant by these terms may give rise to different
types of combinations. Moreover, normality may regard the type of dwelling, without this
implying normal contract etc.


6. An important point is the role of alternative forms of accommodation. Many put emphasis
on “the need for alternative solutions for „clients who do not fit into the dominant model‟”, e.
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g. by „recreating a lodging house style of accommodation‟ or „core and cluster‟ projects
(Dane, quoted by Busch-Geertsema 2000b). “Not everybody wants or seems fit for living on
his own, but needs the protection provided by the institutions. This group would like more
privacy and self-determination in the institutions”. “In Danish social policy resettlement in
shared dwellings of different kinds is considered an important part of the policy measures
exactly for the group of homeless and considered to be an indicator of integration and
success. The recent change in legislation has made it possible to use those measures as
permanent residences” (Koch-Nielsen 2000).


Partly connected with this is the meaning of transitional accommodation. For instance
stabilisation in intermediate/transitional structures may have different meanings, it is
important to understand in which circumstances this means failure, in which circumstances it
means success (adaptation to a „fit‟ solution, realisation of relative autonomy etc.).


7. On this basis, there is a clear need to maintain the distinction between (type of)
accommodation and (provision of) protection/support. Representations are often weakened
by some confusion between housing typology, housing status, steps of the reinsertion
process/programme, degree of protection needed or provided, social quality etc. In fact, all
combinations are possible. Obviously protected accommodation and transitional
accommodation may be provided in both shared and in ordinary housing. Normal housing
does not mean that social situation of people accommodated are normal. On the other side,
there is no reason for thinking that steps previous to the final/full reintegration require
shared/community forms of accommodation etc.


8. As has been said, the value of normal forms of accommodation in reintegration processes
is usually recognised, independently from the approach adopted. The reasons for re-housing
in normal housing are largely referable to the power of normality and of the „home‟
experience (as something distinct from housing). This means that the home experience must
be considered as the real criterion for understanding/appraising the application of the model
and its success. “It is a fundamental but frequent misunderstanding to believe that the need of
the homeless in itself is to become integrated into the housing or the social community. For
this group the fundamental point is to have something to use the flat for. Or in other words to
have a home - not just somewhere to stay” (Koch-Nielsen 2000).




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Part 1. The rehousing project and its local and national context


The national welfare system

1. The general (traditional) model of welfare and social security in Italy has been defined as
„conservative-familistic‟. The definition involves two principal traits: its contributory or
insurance nature and its family based nature (Tosi, Ranci 1999).

The insurance nature of the social protection system means that access to welfare depends
mainly on a person‟s position in the labour market. It is therefore hardly a universalistic
welfare system. It offers no comprehensive protection defined on a national/universalistic
basis, if exception is made for the health service. No system of social welfare protection has
developed that is capable of providing cover to all citizens for risks connected with insecure
or irregular work. The system (similar in this respect to other Southern European countries)
has never developed social welfare programmes (minimum income and access to housing)
aimed at providing a network of social welfare protection for everyone (or almost everyone).

While relatively broad welfare protection is afforded to „workers‟ and to categories such as
minors, the elderly, the handicapped and the disabled, protection is scarce and uncertain for
other adults: for adults without dependent children, at risk or marginalised adults, etc.

„Unprotected‟ adults are entrusted to the social assistance system, a system which as a rule is
separate from the main body of social protection policies and is heavily characterised by its
discretionary nature and measures largely aimed at emergency situations. This means scarce
protection to groups in society that are particularly hit by new forms of vulnerability.
Furthermore, financial benefits are usual small and temporary, awarded on discretion and
within the limits of budget constraints.

In this system, an important element is the importance of the initiatives of local
administrations (municipalities) and of the voluntary sector (associations, NGO‟s, non-profit
organisations). It is they who produced innovation in dealing with homelessness. This also
means that coverage vary considerably from area to area because it depends on the discretion
of local authorities which adopt (for the payment of benefits also) very different criteria. The
great degree of discretion that characterises this intervention reflects unequal distribution of
financial resources, as well as differing degrees of the sensitivity of local governments to the
needs of the homeless and the demands of those organisations responsible for caring for
them.


2. This is the traditional picture. It runs the risk of being misleading for two reasons. It does
not take account of regional welfare policy differences (and even between local authorities in
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the same region). From this point of view, definitions such as „conservative‟, „familistic‟,
„particularistic‟ and so on hardly correspond to much of the country. The image does not fit
the reality of most of the cities in central and northern Italy which have actually set out to
create a system of local services that is similar to the most advanced welfare systems in
Europe.

A further reason for viewing these characterisations relatively comes from the developments
which are underway on the policy and legislative scene. Important changes are currently in
progress both at local and national level. In November 2000 the Parliament passed the new
Law on social welfare (“measures for the creation of an integrated system of social welfare
assistance and of social services“). The Law on immigration 6/3/1998, No. 40 - which in
addition to measures on entrance and stay of foreign immigrants in Italy also contains
measures for the integration of immigrants - is currently being implemented. The reform of
the Law on rents (this provides - in addition to a system of tax benefits - for support for those
suffering most hardship by means of a National Fund for the support of access to rented
accommodation) has become operative at regional level. The Minimum Insertion Income
pilot scheme is now at the halfway stage and should end in December 2000. Finally,
important innovations in family policies were designed to make them more systematic, less
fragmented and to overcome traditional limitations, such as attention restricted to poor
families only and the focus on income support at the expense of service provision.

The social welfare reform is the most significant event in the change of the welfare system.
The intention is to create a system of active protection with the accent on prevention of
hardship, exploiting all the capacities of a person and the community network in which
she/he lives. It is to provide active intervention and not just assistance and damage repair, by
integrating social services with health, educational and work integration services and
involving public and private sector social welfare agencies. The result would be the creation
of the „social protection network‟ that has been called for so often in proposals for welfare
reform, a network that would provide an effective context for measures like that of the
minimum insertion income. (No explicit link with housing policies, however, is established).

To appreciate the innovative importance of this law one must consider its capacity to
eliminate geographical disparities and the discretionary powers of local authorities (a
„modern selective universalism‟ to cite the report accompanying the law). The objective of
the law is to equip the country - the North, the Centre, the South, the large city and the
mountain village - with an integrated network of services. The basic merit of this law is that
it passes from a bricolage to genuine social welfare policies and constructs a „system‟ that
defines welfare rights and essential social services that the state and local authorities have a
duty to guarantee and provide for citizens and families. The law also increases the budget for
social services with cash flows into a National Fund for Welfare Policies.

As a whole, these changes in the general legislative and governmental field are making
substantial changes to the context of social welfare policies: introducing more active policies
in the fight against poverty; making the system develop towards more universalistic
mechanisms and become oriented towards protecting populations at risk of exclusion by
guaranteeing rights. However, there is uncertainty on the meaning and perspective outcomes
                                                                                               8
of this innovation. On the one hand the “incremental” advances, by simply adding new
institutions, risks being unable to modify the logic (categorisation, etc.) of the system and
reducing the innovative effect of the new measures. What is more, the new developments are
not moving ahead uniformly: while social welfare policies seem on the whole to be moving
in the right direction, the same cannot be said of housing policies. There is a particularly
strong tendency in Italy for housing policies to reproduce their inadequacy with regard to the
poorest, thereby running the risk of being an obstacle in the attainment of the objectives
pursued from another direction by new anti-poverty policies. The uncertainty has strongly
increased with the coming of the new right-centre government.


3. The insurance nature of the system means that marginal populations receive little
protection and that for them the traditional limits of the social services assistance system are
particularly accentuated. In general this positioning of marginal populations means they have
difficulty in accessing certain public sector services and are very exposed to the deficits of
the system. The homeless provide a good example of this. In the absence of full social rights
for the homeless, the intervention is characterised by broad powers of discretion and
variability as well as by the prevalence of emergency thinking aimed above all at providing
stop-gap measures for the most visible and serious situations. The “separate” and residual
nature of this intervention constitutes the inevitable corollary of this social welfare protection
system. We will see how at local level innovation has considerably changed the picture for
many cities.

The system does little for marginalised groups even with regard to housing aspects. The
tendency is to put them on a par with the ordinary recipient of general social housing policies
and therefore consign them to a system in which they are penalised in terms of access and the
effectiveness of the services provided. Moreover, marginalised groups may be penalised by
the traditional separation between housing and social assistance measures.

There have certainly been significant developments in public sector housing, above all at
regional and local authority level. Various regional governments have introduced innovations
to their public sector housing system in an attempt to take account of new phenomena of
housing exclusion and social exclusion. Marginal groups nevertheless continue to encounter
difficulty with access to public housing and the effectiveness of the system continues to
remain limited by the irrationality of the allocation criteria (classification by category) and
still more by the insufficient quantity of the supply.

Taken as a whole, recent innovation also involves a certain narrowing of the gap between
social and housing services in the sense that social services intervention has sought to
incorporate the treatment of housing aspects into its system of action, realising how
important they are in the pursuance of its “social” objectives (prevention, social reintegration
etc.). Much less has occurred in the opposite direction, i.e. a willingness of the public sector
housing system to take responsibility for accommodation demands arising from social
welfare intervention. The public sector housing supply has in fact sought to take account of
the new housing demand posed by new processes of impoverishment and exclusion, but by
merely specifying more and different criteria for access to public sector housing and not by
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adapting its supply to meet the demands of an integrated approach, the need to deal with
housing and social integration requirements together). Attempts to integrate the two aspects
have certainly been made, but at a decentralised level on the initiative of a few regional and
local authorities and voluntary associations and NGO‟s.

Reconciliation of social and housing policies is also achieved by public sector housing
departments making small quotas of their housing stock available for housing reintegration
(this occurs in Brescia, Genoa, Milan etc.). This is a decisive point, which has nevertheless
been given no explicit definition within the new national bill on social welfare, nor in the
schemes for “reforming” public housing.



The housing system and policies

1. Housing policies in Italy have been traditionally wanting from a social welfare viewpoint
and not sufficiently targeted to the needs of marginalised groups and groups in extreme
poverty. Not only the supply at the cheaper end of the market is scarce, also social housing
policies are poorly integrated with general social welfare programmes.

As for the general social efficacy of the system, the critical point is the scarcity of affordable
rented housing, together with the little protection afforded to most of the rented housing
demand.

Two traits weaken the effectiveness of public sector housing in protecting vulnerable groups:
the scarcity of the supply, the large gap between the demand for and the supply of public
sector housing; and a certain lack of rationality in the assignment and management of
accommodation. Public housing has provided 5-6 per cent of accommodation over the last
decade. Moreover, the eligibility criteria do not ensure - no longer ensure - correct priorities
among those eligible. Added to this there is the traditional concept of public sector housing
as something separate from the rest of housing policy, and considered as something that
operates side by side with the market. These traits have prevented the public sector housing
system from playing a major welfare role over the last few decades.

In addition to mainstream public housing, a number of social measures are aimed at
situations of serious hardship or at emergency situations (variously defined: “serious housing
hardship”, “particular housing emergency”, “welfare cases”, “persons at risk”, “situations of
particular social importance” etc.). In these cases assistance by local authorities may be
granted independently from the ordinary social housing assignment procedures. Action in
this field is basically by local authorities who use their own resources as well as those of
central and regional government: specially marked funds, portions of local authority stock,
etc. (Tosi 2991a).


2. The main problem point however is the obsolescence of the system of social/public
housing. A system designed to meet a relatively simple and homogeneous demand, like that
                                                                                               10
of the 1950‟s and 60‟s has been unable to keep up with the succession of developments that
the demand has undergone - its growing variety, the appearance of new groups in need with
requirements that are radically different from those traditionally found (e.g. immigrants).

Nor does the creation of “special categories” improve the result. The division into categories
fragments consideration of need situations and introduces something of a random element
into the system which on the one hand reflects local political options and on the other hand
expresses opinions on the hierarchy of needs that is not always based on objective analysis of
the incidence of hardship found in the different groups.


3. Over the last two decades there has been a progressive transfer of responsibility from
central government to the Regions and local authorities. Regions have taken over planning
functions concerning location, construction and control of action; functions aimed at
allowing access to easy credit terms; greater powers over IACPs (special local authorities for
public housing). Local authorities have taken over responsibility for allocation of social
housing from IACPs which controlled allocation for years. Central government maintained
wide powers over general regulations and planning, particularly in the field of the of private
rental and of allocation of social housing.

In the new institutional framework, the construction of more socially effective housing
policies is entrusted essentially to the capacities of the regional governments and local
authorities to innovate and to some degree to third sector operators. Regional governments
now carry the responsibility for Public Sector housing. Furthermore the new laws that
regulate social policies give regions and local authorities responsibility for key functions: for
instance, in the new law on welfare and in the new law on immigration, which gives them the
main responsibility for integration policies. Regions control the most important part of
institutional resources relating to housing and the community. Local authorities have
concrete responsibility for local housing policies, they have their own usual significant
resources and important duties with regard to planning and co-ordination of local initiatives,
setting up of housing agencies and local networks, etc.

In effect, there are interesting experiences underway, particularly in regions which can count
on more adequate legislation and means, and on a local fabric - social, associations,
institutional - capable of providing appropriate actors for innovation. Current experiences are
tackling the structural problems that the construction of “new social housing“ involves: how
to direct private resources into social housing, how to organise a robust non profit sector,
how to redefine the role of local government organisations in the new framework, etc. The
main orientation, however, reveals particular attention to the intermediate and middle to low
income group demand, while institutions and welfare operators show less innovative capacity
in the “more social” area where the approach is much closer to the traditional welfare
assistance vision.

Central government has maintained some responsibilities for hardship and social housing.
There have been some initiatives in this respect. The small amount of resources involved
however represents a serious limitation to them.
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4. While positive and consistent developments have occurred in social welfare policies (with
great potential for the development of social housing policies), the same innovation has not
occurred in the housing field, even if some recent national measures have to a certain extent
improved the context conditions.

The new rent law provides some basic institutional and financial resources for building more
effective local policies in this crucial area. The law introduces tax incentives to release
numbers of currently empty properties onto the market and to keep rents low for a quota of
the supply that accepts regulated rent contract negotiation. These types of measure may also
respond to „social‟ needs, but they do not seem able to respond to situations of more acute
hardship. Nor does the setting up of a fund for the concession of rent supplement benefits
seem sufficient for this purpose, unless in the meantime context elements (substantial supply
of social housing etc.), on which the effectiveness of this type of measure depend, are
guaranteed. It is well known that the effectiveness of these types of measures will depend on
the scale of application and on whether or not a different overall context emerges: a substantial
supply of social housing that is very affordable, and improvement of access mechanisms, the
creation of (housing and welfare) supply that is consistent with the needs of those vulnerable to
exclusion. On this point current developments do not give reassuring signals.

The recent immigration law is a good example of how the general policy framework may
weaken the innovative potential of a good measure. The law is a large step forward for one of
the categories most exposed to the risk of housing poverty. By giving immigrants the right to
the benefits of normal social housing measures and introducing new forms of supply, it
opens up new prospects for the handling of immigrant housing problems.
Nevertheless the possibility of achieving these objectives effectively depends on regions and
local authorities putting a set of robust housing policies in place. The relative weakness in
Italy of immigrant integration policies is a result not only of the insufficiencies of targeted
policies, but even more so of the limitations imposed by the general context and by general
welfare policies. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to the limitations of Italian housing
policies.

In actual fact local implementation of the law is suffering from the limitations of the general
system of social housing policies. This is clear if we look at the use by Regions of funds
provided under Law No. 40. The absolute priority given to reception centres or to
emergency measures - as compared to measures for access to housing - in many regions
reflects the lack of an adequate set of social housing policies.

5. The housing problems of the weakest bands of the population were the object of
significant action during the 1990‟s by institutions, voluntary associations, co-operatives and
trade unions. The initiatives - motivated above all by a desire to respond to the problems of
foreign immigrants - were developed on different levels. New formulas for action were tried,
in various directions: to facilitate the transition from reception centres to ordinary/permanent
housing, to respond to the specific type of demand from immigrants; to help match difficult
demand with the supply; to increase the social supply for both temporary and

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ordinary/permanent accommodation over and beyond what can normally be done with the
conventional instruments of public housing and traditional housing policies.

These local initiatives constitute an important contribution to solving the problem of those
excluded from housing. In many areas although each individual project is small, the overall
contribution of the real property action has been significant. The limitations are obvious if
the voluntary nature and meagre planning of these initiatives is considered. They are
fragmented and poorly co-ordinated, with very few resources. Developed on a voluntary
basis, and largely entrusted to voluntary associations, these initiatives risk creating partial
solutions with irreducible “social service“ dimensions and isolated in the fabric of the local
community.

Whatever effectiveness these experiences have had in the past, the problem now is that of
replicating them under new conditions. Many protagonists of these experiences now
underline the growing difficulty met by their initiatives today, the possibility that more
ambitious formulas have reached a limit beyond which further development is not possible:
due to the growing difficulty in finding the ingredients (accommodation, space) needed for
their action; the disappearance or uncertainty of traditional sources of funding (regional
governments, public sector housing) etc. As can be seen, the limits of these experiences and
the difficulties that they meet today are connected to a large extent with the lack of an
adequate context in terms of rules and regulations, public policies and institutional resources.

6. Probably, the main limit to policies today is the capacity to come to terms with the
meaning of the new interconnections between impoverishment and housing hardship/poverty
processes. This involves two complementary demands: to address housing risk (the typically
“widespread” character of the new hardship which now covers not only the poor segments of
the population) and to construct markedly social housing policies. According to what is
indicated by the development undertaken in other countries, this means making a very
affordable supply available, trying to make the supply appropriate by providing social
support services, and a closer relationship between housing and “social”, between housing
measures and measures to fight poverty. Targeted measures are an integral part of this line,
but within the context of a wider policy system capable of preventing social policies from
becoming residual as is implicit in neo-liberal models.

In this field an important element of weakness regards the policies targeted at poverty or the
risk of social exclusion. There is also a question mark over the preventative capacity of a
system that on the one hand interprets “social welfare” too broadly, not selectively, and on
the other is too centred on crisis situations, situations of clear and complete marginalisation.
The necessary change of course with respect to previous policies will also have to involve
definition systems, which, on at least two points, stand in the way of a correct approach to
the problem:

(a) the capacity to discriminate between different social demands. Current definitions
continue to be based on an ideology which by adopting an extended generic meaning of the
terms “social” or “disadvantaged groups” confuses different problems that cannot be treated
in the same way. Careful detailed analysis of the demand cannot help but recognise great
                                                                                             13
variety with strong internal dynamics that must be tackled with a great variety of plans and
an increase in the variety of available solutions. Above all systematic work must be done on
the distinction, that still has not taken root in the housing culture, between “normal” social
housing demand and the poor/marginal demand.

(b) groups addressed by targeting measures. In Italy, the construction of the problem of the
homeless - centred on the figure of the “no abode“ (senza dimora: a term which in the Italian
context means socially marginalised homeless, characterised by multiple handicaps etc.) -
leads to a primary focus on situations of particular gravity and advanced stages in the
processes of marginalisation. This means that the problem of homelessness is scarcely
conceptualised as one of housing and that people excluded from housing but not affected by
accentuated traits of social marginalisation, enjoy little recognition in the policy system. The
distinction is important because housing exclusion without marginalisation is a widespread
phenomenon and because it represents an important area for policies, an area in which the
policy principles for dealing with marginalisation (for instance social reintegration
programmes) do not apply.

7. There are no programmes for the homeless provided by central government: this is mainly
local responsibility. However, in 1999-2000 there was growing attention from government
towards the no abode. In January 2,000 (eight homeless died of cold in Rome, two in Turin
and two in Liguria), the central government decided to spend 30 billion Lire on emergency
action: “it will be used to increase local authority and voluntary organisation resources for
the provision of emergency assistance and health care for the needy so that they will be
guaranteed a meal, a roof and medical assistance”. In the meantime, efforts to provide
emergency assistance were also intensified by local administrations, including the city of
Rome, and by Church organisations. The government decree appointed the mayors of major
cities as commissioners with the authority to spend the funds on “rescue, accommodation and
assistance by local administration departments, voluntary associations and other non profit
organisations operating in the field” and to create “emergency accommodation services,
social work and social reintegration services” for the beneficiaries of the initiative. Most of
the money went to 14 major cities (Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples, Palermo, etc.) - divided
proportionately - and 4 billion to other local authorities.

This type of measure was also provided by the new Law on social welfare for 2001 and
2002.




Social services and the homeless

1. This decade has seen positive developments in Italy for services dealing with poverty and
marginalisation, developments that reflect - as elsewhere in Europe - the consolidation of
new philosophies of action and the search for new criteria of effectiveness, but also a more
                                                                                             14
complex and differentiated demand. As a consequence, in many areas today we have local
welfare systems that provide a wider variety of services, both for extreme poverty and
homelessness and for at risk situations (Tosi, Ranci, Kazepov 1998).

(a) Persons suffering hardship can count above all on services targeted at persons in need in
general: financial assistance measures, both extraordinary and continuous; housing assistance
(public and private welfare sector) services (rehousing, mediation on the rented
accommodation market, etc.); specific community services such as SERT (Community Drug
Addiction Service), NOT‟s (Operational Drug Addiction Units), centres for alcoholics,
mental health services, etc.; services with functions of advice, information and referral that
contact other services and supply help that prevents situations of hardship from becoming
more acute.
The latter type of service - variously named: Servizi Sociali per Adulti (social services for
adults), Servizi per la Famiglia (family services) and so on according to the city - plays a
central role in the local service system and also performs important functions for
marginalised or homeless persons. They provide access to a series of community resources
(monetary benefits, assistance in the home, fostering children, putting children into homes):
an important function as for most benefits access is not automatic.
Even if they are not necessarily targeted at situations of extreme hardship, these services are
important because they supplement the services targeted specifically at persons suffering
serious hardship and constitute the context in which specifically targeted services operate.
They condition the effectiveness of specific services constituting a network within which
workers can move to mobilise the resources available in the community.

(b) Alongside these services there are those targeted at social marginalisation and
homelessness. In the area of accommodation services, dormitories and night shelters were
flanked by other types of supply indicating a change to a more dynamic attitude: aimed either
at social reintegration by employing individual (re)integration plans or at „damage reduction‟
and at improvement the quality of the lives of marginalised persons. A large number of
services have appeared - often operating in a network - that meet the needs of daily living
and provide information and advice (services of this type specifically targeted at women are
rare): soup kitchens, showers, medical clinics, advice centres, day centres, occupational
workshops, etc.


While from a theoretical viewpoint the distinction between the two types of services is clear,
from a practical viewpoint it is not always easy to classify a given service in one category or
another. Even low threshold services provide a minimum of social work type support for
reinsertion. It could in fact be said that dormitories or emergency shelters in the traditional
sense of the term do not exist for women, but only transition/residential care facilities.




                                                                                            15
2. The evolution of services for the homeless has followed the typical movement which may
be observed in all the European countries - from large scale, highly institutionalised towards
small-scale, individualised assistance, from remedial/emergency to preventive approaches,
from sectoral/segmented to integrated forms of intervention.
In this frame, an increase of reintegration/reinsertion programmes may be observed. On this
substantial experience has been accumulated at the local level (mainly in the North and
Centre areas of the country). The new approach towards poverty and homelessness is
characterised by great attention to the chances of reintegration, and by an extended notion of
"reintegration". As regards the homeless, a basic idea is that in order to realise reintegration a
multidimensional approach is required.


3. The practical implementation of these forms of supply occurred above all outside the
public sector due to the rigidity of public sector administrative systems and organisation. In
many cases the start of new experiments, run by voluntary associations, was encouraged by
the public sector institutions themselves with the intention of arriving at an overall
diversification of intervention. Farming out the management of innovative services was often
a deliberate strategy of local authorities with the aim of financing the experimentation of new
services outside government institutions with the purpose (in reality almost never pursued) of
then employing the methods in the direct provision of public sector services. This process
did, however, lead to the rapid specialisation of the private organisations which ran these
services, to the birth, that is, of new professional agencies which then hit local authorities
with financial requests and new plans.

In those places where local authorities supported the growth of these initiatives (such as
Turin, Brescia, Bologna, etc.), the constitution of an integrated network of services was
observed, which greatly increased the effectiveness of the individual agencies involved.

The creation of a network of community based services has not only produced a diversified
supply but has also transformed (again only partially) the way public sector services operate.
The main common area in which changes have occurred is the public (night) shelters.
Traditional shelters (dormitori) have diversified the services they provide in the direction of
greater attention to individuals and an approach that is not exclusively that of emergency.
Within those local authority administrations more sensitive to homelessness, more space has
been found for recognition of the problem to the extent of setting up departments for services
officially dedicated to persons of no abode. So far, however, this has been accompanied by
only a modest increase in budgets and consequently continuous, regular and long term
individual attention cannot be given to all those in need of it.

Anyway, the majority of public sector dormitories have experienced a change from a mainly
remedial type attitude of pure emergency and containment of the phenomenon to a more
dynamic attitude aimed at actively searching for solutions and employing a variety of
resources which include above all co-operation with non-profit organisations. In this context,
dormitories, though they still represent a low threshold supply, often constitute the first stage
in a path to housing autonomy and to autonomy tout court.
                                                                                               16
4. The creation of special offices (Office for Adults in Difficulty etc.) is only one example of
the reorganisation of local authority and voluntary association services induced by new
approaches. There are some recurring themes in these innovations. The first is the creation of
bodies, professional figures and procedures that soften some of the rigidity imposed by the
legislation and organisation of services. This is done first of all by relating needs to possible
solutions and by using a certain amount of discretion. Furthermore, they realise the need to
continuously change and redefine the users they are targeting.

Another theme concerns the need to create connections between different types of public
sector service provision. One important field of application in this sense is that of public
sector housing. As has been said, the legislation assigns a quota of public sector housing
stock to be managed by local authority social services and allocated to families in specific
housing emergency situations (“social cases”). Apart from that, the official procedures do not
involve (with direct allocation of responsibility) local authority social services. What is more,
there is no (obligatory) social work support to be performed nor integration between the
supply of housing and other (social) services. This work and integration depends entirely
therefore on local initiatives.

Various local authorities have made moves in this direction: by setting up consultation
procedures for housing allocation between social services and housing allocation offices; by
having social services assign social support to new (or would be) tenants in difficulty, or by
creating social services departments within housing offices. A particular type of supported
housing has arisen that consists of providing social accompaniment to public sector housing
tenants.

These tendencies are also encountered in third sector organisations. The practice of being
open to and using discretion towards categories not officially classified as being in need is an
important characteristic of non-profit welfare organisations too. The same applies with
regard to the need to create co-ordinating structures between the various sources of supply
and agencies.

There are numerous forms of co-operation between the two sectors. Naturally there are
differences between localities. In Milan for example, the network of organisations is
particularly rich, varied and well-structured and it can count on large private fund providers.
In Bologna, the role of co-ordination or support for organisation in network played by the
municipality is considerable.

Co-operation occurs essentially in three ways: (a) co-ordination of work and policy lines; (b)
co-operation for the development of individual reintegration plans; (c) contractual
agreements concerning accommodation facilities between non-profit associations and the
public sector.



                                                                                              17
In some situations an attempt has been made to create an operating environment in which
local administrations and the main non profit organisations working in social hardship
participate and proceed to the definition of joint operating strategies. In some cities (e.g.
Milan), these joint working groups have been promoted by non profit organisations and the
main church centres with the aim not only of constructing operational networks of co-
operation but also of involving the local administration in taking overall responsibility for
action against exclusion. In other cities (e.g. Bologna, Brescia and to some extent Turin), the
initiative has been promoted by the local administration itself, wishing to involve private
operators in a common working strategy.

The recognition itself of the multi-dimensional nature of the needs of the no abode has
obliged social and welfare services that deal with them to establish co-operation with other
service providers in the community. Acting on the multiple needs of a person is often
achieved by the joint action of several people and services. This “networking” approach
means that services and agencies in contact with each other, although dealing with different
aspects of a case, meet and work together, overcoming the categorisation or pigeon-holing of
needs which is still present far too often in the Italian social welfare system. Both in Brescia
and Turin, for example, staff from different services meet systematically to discuss "cases".



5. The main tendency followed by services for the no abode in recent years has been to
differentiate between emergency and transitional accommodation/services. The primary
objective of emergency (low threshold) services is to satisfy the fundamental needs of
persons in difficulty according to an emergency logic (a bed to sleep in, a hot meal, a
minimum of personal hygiene...). The objective of transitional services, however, is the
reintegration of the individual into society, usually trough personalised reintegration plans.

As a consequence of this trend, the housing dimension of intervention may have different
aims (help in the search for housing, referral to welfare housing services, concession of
subsidies to assist with rent payments, the provision of accommodation...), and play a
differing role. For example in reintegration programmes it may be seen as a support on the
road to integration. In other cases housing reintegration is the fundamental objective of the
service. The social dimension of the support in this case is social work support associated
with housing.

From a housing point of view, transitional solutions can be broadly classified into two basic
categories: community lodgings and protected apartments. The former are relatively large
facilities that take between ten and thirty persons; bedrooms have two or three beds and
communal areas include laundries, canteens, stores for food and TV rooms. The latter,
however, are genuine apartments taking two or three persons and are run by the occupants,
with different forms of social support or supervision. The last step in the path to
independence is the acquisition of ordinary housing, in which the individual lives alone. In
most cases, this is public sector housing. In a few cities, the allocation of public housing to
“social cases” takes account of the existence of reintegration plans for the no abode.
                                                                                             18
Access to transitional facilities - whether public or private sector - is usually mediated by the
drawing up of individual reintegration plans. Occupants are generally persons who are
unable to run a household autonomously, but who nevertheless show the will to follow a
personalised plan leading to re-acquisition of autonomy. The age of users varies, as has been
seen, according to the type of facility, but all are adults and physically self-sufficient.

Transitional accommodation is usually for a period of between six months and two years,
depending on the individual plan and the type of user - but workers never set rigid deadlines.
At the end of this period occupants should have acquired the capacities needed for them to
access permanent housing. In reality, occupants may even stay in these facilities for several
years, well beyond the deadline set in their reintegration plan. Discharging occupants is
particularly difficult.

Accommodation facilities are often run by private sector social welfare co-operatives who
co-operate closely with public sector services. At times, the ties of these organisations with
local authority services working with the same persons in difficulty is limited to requesting
and obtaining funding to cover the payment of staff and other operating expenses (including
the payment of rent in a few cases). Often, in addition to this contractual relationship, there is
also co-operation with specific operational units of local authorities over the solution of
practical problems or over the management of difficult cases (e.g. with the «housing office»
for the allocation of housing to a user, or with social services for income supplements).
Generally, however, financial subsidies from local authorities are given without joint
planning and the definition of shared objectives. In this sense, public funding constitutes a
form of acknowledgement by the local authority of the “genuineness” of the initiative
funded, but it does not necessarily mean that the initiative will become part of a wider policy
strategy aimed at tackling the problem. Paradoxically, though, public funding often indicates
virtually complete delegation of responsibility for developing a policy for housing and social
reintegration for persons in difficulty to non profit organisations.

After the new law on immigration, immigrants are entitled to the whole range of housing
resources provided by central and local state. In addition, specific provision has been
provided by both public and private initiatives, with two objectives: (a) to facilitate housing
and social insertion at the arrival stage; (b) to deal with specific or additional difficulties that
immigrants meet on the market.

Immigration is the field in which more widespread has been the “social estate” activity aimed
at housing insertion. Non-profit associations and municipalities have developed an important
number of projects aimed at intermediation and guarantee activity on the rental market, and
at increasing the supply of non public sector social housing. In some cases, associations
integrate this activity with social support.




                                                                                                 19
The local welfare and services for the homeless in Milan

1. As many cities located in northern and central Italy, Milan represents a relatively advanced
examples of social welfare policies in Italy, and a fair example of the main lines of
innovation that have manifested in recent years. As regards the organisation of social
services, the local system is characterised by a number of traits which are common to these
cities:

- the presence of networks (made official to a large extent by the awarding of contracts by
local authorities) containing a variety of public and private sector services which co-operate
each other;
- the strong presence of private welfare organisations in these networks, which the
municipalities use in different ways but always to a vast extent;
- the „division of labour‟ between private and public sector welfare: in cities in which the
municipal services operate directly in the field of extreme marginalisation, private welfare
organisations have cut out a priority space for themselves in transition and protected
accommodation services; moreover, large part of the public sector‟s role is concentrated on
advice and co-ordination (Adult Social Services, etc.) and general community services (Tosi,
Ranci 1999).


The models of welfare of these cities are also different in many ways. Differences concern
above all the different role of the public sector, though within a common philosophy of
public-private sector co-operation, from two points of view:
- differing direct provision and running of services by the public sector;
- different relationships between public and private welfare services.


In Milan there is very little direct provision for the seriously marginalised by the
municipality. The organisation and running of services in the field is delegated to private
welfare organisations. The role of the municipality is above all that of providing funding for
the large variety of voluntary organisations and to some extent it is involved in
encouragement and co-ordination functions. Action is delegated to private welfare
organisations above all for the „no abode‟ and seriously marginalised. The large voluntary
organisations have become key figures in recent years in the fight against poverty and
extreme hardship in Milan.

Private social welfare services - both of Church origin and others - collect funds from
individuals and also from private institutions, in particular from foundations which have
objectives of improving the community in which they exist. They are also to a large extent
financed by the local authority through special contract/agreements and grants for immediate
intervention.
                                                                                            20
2. The role and contribution of the municipality is seen above all in the provision of
community services not directly targeted at homeless persons, but to which they can gain
access. In every district there is a Mental Health Service, an Operational Drug Addiction
Unit, etc.


In Milan too, the public sector services perform referral and co-ordination functions. Persons
in need can turn to:
Family Social Services (SSdF) if they are women with dependent children or are expecting
  and in need (including housing need). These services are decentralised: one office in each
  of the 20 zones into which the city is divided;
Centres for Assistance in the Home (CADA) for persons over 55 years of age and with a
  permanent home;
The Adults in Difficulty Office (UAD) for persons aged between 18 and 55 with no
  dependent children,


The Adults in Difficulty Office of the Municipality of Milan is a centralised service in the
city. It is a social services office located next to the municipal night shelter. Its main function
is to respond to the needs of users who do not fall within those categories which have a right
to services and assistance from district social services offices. These include adults in
difficulty with no children who are minors (otherwise they are the responsibility of Family
Services), adults under the age of 60 (otherwise they are the responsibility of Multi-service
Centres for the Elderly), people with disabilities less than 45 per cent (otherwise there is a
special service). The office deals with persons officially resident and with an income below
the minimum survival income which the municipality sets at the equivalent of a minimum
National Insurance pension (currently about 350 Euro). The objectives of the office are social
(re)insertion by means of subsidies and income supplements and social support in situations
of difficulty connected with housing, work and health. The Office provides social support by
the internal social services department, consisting of a psychologist, a social worker and an
employment counsellor. Substantially multi-dimensional assistance is provided through
recourse to other services available in the city.

For emergency accommodation there is a public dormitory (Viale Ortles), run by the
municipality itself to which any person without accommodation for the night can gain access.
The dormitory, like the majority of public sector dormitories is open during set hours from
7.00 p.m. to 8.00 a.m.. The only grounds for remaining during the day is illness. In the space
reserved for emergency accommodation the maximum length of stay is three days, while
access to the other places is granted after an interview with a social worker, after a medical
check up and an assessment by the service. Maximum length of stay is six months.




                                                                                                21
This can be extended if the user decides to follow a reintegration plan. The first three days of
accommodation are free and after the fourth day a contribution of between 1 and 3 Euro per
night is charged.

Part of the dormitory building has been restructured with a view to improvement of the
quality of life for a group of chronic elderly occupants (about 30), who - now too old to be
eligible for access to the dormitory - have no chance of escaping their marginalisation. A
community lodging has been created designed to meet their needs. This allows these elderly
persons to pass the entire day indoors.


3. As has been said, the public sector services providing emergency accommodation for the
extremely marginalised and no abode are relatively few when compared with those in other
cities in the North.

Most of the services targeted at serious marginalisation are provided by voluntary
organisations, above all the large RC voluntary organisations, at times with some funding by
the municipality. An important role is played by SAM (Milanese Welcome Service),
organised and run directly by the diocesan Caritas. Alongside private welfare low threshold
facilities, there are transition hostels which take persons in need on referral from other
services. There are many services for (single) women and their children; the municipality
funds a good 110 hostels of this type. Finally private welfare services provide numerous
counselling services, soup kitchens, distribution of clothes, etc.
The type of model employed by this city is confirmed by a look at municipal Social
Assistance Budget, where spending of serious marginalisation and adults is almost non
existent. However a look at the item „Contracts with Private Welfare Organisations‟ shows
much greater spending.

4. As in other cities, innovation has required reorganisation of local authority and voluntary
association services. This has involved the reorganisation of social services offices. The
Office for Adults in Difficulty has been the main aspects of this reorganisation in the public
sector.

It also plays a major role in creating connections between different types of public sector
service provision, including links between social support and provision of housing. for
“social cases”. The Adults in Difficulty Office takes direct responsibility for the allocation of
housing to these cases. The Office contains a professional social service team, with various
specialists and devises proper individual plans for tenants in co-ordination with the services
network.

Co-ordinating also occurs with regard to non-profit welfare organisations. One example is
Siloe, which provides consulting services to church parishes for the “decoding” and
management of hardship situations; it also deals directly with housing both by searching for
new accommodation and by making grants to maintain people in housing.

                                                                                              22
The Siloe initiative started up in Milan in 1997 as an operational tool of the Curia and the Caritas of the
Diocese of Milan to deal with the problems of individuals and families in difficulty referred by parishes and
community services. It is concerned with the housing dimension and has contacts with both the Aler (local
public sector housing agency) and non-profit organisations. Siloe was conceived of as part of a general
reorganisation of charitable services and involves the training of staff for advice centres.

Its primary objective is to support the charity work of parishes and translates concretely into:
- a consultancy service for workers who have "gathered" the need: parishes, local public and private sector
services; when necessary Siloe draws up individual plans with the referring parish, with the relevant services
and with individual clients through interviews designed to ascertain the strong and weak points of the
individual in question; social support is then provided by the parish with the assistance of social services;
Siloe is kept constantly informed of outcomes and any problems that remain unsolved;
- extraordinary payments, assessed by a special commission and agreed with parishes: payments are only
made in cases where parishes guarantee continuous social work support to the individual receiving the
payment; the money is often used to supplement public or private sector rent payments to prevent evictions
or to help with utility payments (electricity, gas);
- occupational orientation, re/training and enrolment in employment projects (“work scholarships”);
- help and advice with keeping and finding accommodation.



5. As has been said, in Milan the network of organisations that operate in the area of
poverty is particularly rich, varied and well-structured and it can count on large
private fund providers. An attempt has been made to create joint working groups -
promoted by non profit organisations and the main church centres. The Consulta per
l‟Emarginazione (consultative body for the emarginated), according to the intentions
of its founders, was to co-ordinate all actors operating in the sector and become a
point of reference. In reality, the Consulta has never operated either at a consultation
level or a planning level even though many attempts have been made to revitalise it
by the non-profit organisation. There are therefore individual services in Milan which
according to the particular need, have set up networks of official (by stipulating
formal agreements) and informal (through the initiative of individual staff) co-
operation.


6. As in most larger cities in the North, the percentage of social housing is higher in Milan
than in the national average, it provides as much as 18 per cent of accommodation. However,
as it is clear from the following table, the gap between supply and demand is great. The table
also shows the increasing pressure exerted by emergency demand. After a constant fall in
emergency allocation in recent years, demand from and allocation to evicted tenants soared
in 2000 upsetting yet again the quantitative relationship between emergency and ordinary
housing (Politecnico 2991).

Emergency allocations of public housing in Milan, 1995-2000
                   1995       1996        1997       1998           2000
                                                                    (14.11)
Demand
- eviction           912        1469         1070        1102
- emergency          1479       1838         1967        2161
    TOT              2391       3307         3037        3263

                                                                                                           23
Allocation
- eviction        245       231         255      48        478
- emergency       649       535         437      369       592
    TOT           894       766         692      417       1070


Milan is one of the cities in which the “social estate” activity aimed at housing insertion is
particularly developed, both in the direction of intermediation and guarantee activity on the
rental market, and of work aimed at increasing the supply of non public sector social
housing. This work does not usually imply any form of social support other than that directly
involved in housing insertion. Nevertheless in some cases social support may be provided -
particularly when the work is performed by non-profit associations. In some cases work on
the housing markets has complementary relations with social work aimed at persons in
difficulty.

Both the Office for Adults in Difficulty and Siloe provide advice and financial subsidies to
those with difficulties in maintaining existing accommodation. For public sector housing
tenants Siloe maintains constant relations with the Aler, the Municipality, the tenants unions,
voluntary associations, local government agencies and foundations to: help keep
accommodation in cases of rent arrears or legalisable abusive occupation ; to obtain payment
by instalment or reductions of debts by making payments to help with arrears with gas and
electricity; to assist with applications to the Fondo Sociale (welfare fund for rent supplement
payments) ; to obtain reductions in rent levels etc.

Both the Adults in Difficulty Office and the Siloe provide assistance and advice in finding
accommodation for users. There is a growing demand above all from couples, pensioners,
new immigrant families, single income families, families excluded from access to public
sector housing and at the same time unable to afford housing on the open rent market. This is
a very difficult need to meet. Siloe obtains resources from the Fondazione S. Carlo in this
respect. The Fondazione S. Carlo renovates and repairs Aler public housing in poor
condition, and makes it available for 400,000 lire (206 Euro) per month; in the absence of
this supply, resort is made to boarding houses, rooms for rent or temporary solutions, for
young people above all. The Caritas of Bologna provides advice for application in public
sector housing and support in the search for housing through agencies and newspaper
advertisements.


7. From the middle of the 1980‟s until the start of the 1990‟s, 10 emergency accommodation
centres were opened by the Municipality. Today only two remain. In Milan most
accommodation facilities targeted at foreigners are run by the RC connected private welfare
sector, even if under contract or funded by the public sector (municipality and province). RC
voluntary associations, Caritas and the welfare co-operatives that emanate from them (e.g.
Farsi Prossimo) play a basic role in this sector, and in fact it seems that the municipality has
delegated the entire welfare task here to the private welfare sector, limiting itself to funding
the services. In this sense the welfare mix set-up described is fully confirmed (residual and
mainly funding role of the public sector, while services are run by the private sector).
                                                                                             24
Part 2: The follow-up study


The projects

1. The research deals with different actions and projects that respond to the criteria set for
this follow-up study: “that they aim at moving homeless people out of homelessness into
permanent housing and actively provide support as necessary” (“for facilitating self
sufficiency and independence)”. They are among the most innovative, and are good
examples of the lines of innovation that have manifested in recent years in reintegration of
homeless persons.

Actually, contacts were taken with most voluntary associations working in Milan with
homeless persons, and the final choice for the sample includes various types of action, as a
whole representative of voluntary action in this area of problems.

Actions of public sector agencies, however, were not included. As has been seen, planned
reintegration is mainly a concern of association/non profit agency (with varying support of
public resources). In the public sector, this kind of work is less systematic.

At first, the idea was to refer only to the clients of the Cena dell„Amicizia. When it became
apparent that this was not a sufficient basis to reach the number of cases planned, we decided
to involve other agencies. Through a local Caritas office (SAM: an orientation/social
support/referral agency) and Farsi Prossimo (a voluntary agency of the Caritas network
which runs several shelters) - we were able to add to the sample a number of rehoused
persons. Most of them have in common some link with a local street newspaper (Scarp de
Tenis). A small number of them are foreign immigrants which have been rehoused with the
help of Farsi Prossimo.

These initiatives may be considered as a unitary object from two points of view:
   (a) they are linked: involved in a local co-operation programme, partly in a networking
       action
   (b) they share the same philosophy to social reintegration/resettlement, based on the idea
       of a multi-dimensional/integrated action, in many cases by building individual
       reintegration plans.

The initiatives share two major points which are crucial in our research perspective:
- the importance of housing experience (normal housing) in the integration of homeless
people: the “home” experience as a basic ingredient of the social reintegration process
                                                                                           25
- the support services as a means to strengthen the existing competencies and resources of
former homeless persons, i. e. empowerment of those concerned.


These elements provide a unitary frame for interpretation and evaluation of the cases.
However, the fact that more than one project is involved makes some difference with respect
to the research programme. Moreover, the fact that we are not dealing with single rehousing
project makes it difficult to use the dimensions of the Assessment Tool.


The inclusion of immigrants in the sample provides information on specific reintegration
paths, in which “material” difficulties, and the sheer need of housing, usually represent an
important part of the problem and of the solution. In many cases immigrants are neither long
term homeless, nor strongly marginalised homeless/characterised by multiple deprivation etc.




Cena dell’Amicizia


2. Cena dell‟Amicizia (Friendship Supper) has been working with homeless persons in
Milan for 30 years. Founded in a Parish of Milan in 1968, it was not until later that its
organisation was widened and diversified (becoming more independent of the Parish) to
include accommodation facilities and a day centre with the consequent need to find more
adequate facilities (Associazione 1998; Tosi, Ranci, Kazepov 1998).


Their activity is centred on reintegration of the homeless and their approach is based on
building individual reintegration plans, usually starting from situations of extreme
deprivation. Reintegration programmes make use of special purpose facilities that reflect the
philosophy of de-institutionalisation. On the one hand the size of the facilities is reduced,
tending to overcome the “totalising” effect of previous facilities. On the other hand the
supply is differentiated: different facilities for different types of user and for different degrees
of autonomy reached by occupants.


The structures on which they count include: a night shelter (13 persons) and a day centre (15
persons) - both reserved to homeless persons involved in some form of reintegration plan;
and twenty apartments of transitional accommodation. These apartments are provided to
persons at the “pre-autonomy” stage, in flats in a public housing estate, given by the Aler
(the local public housing authority) on the basis of a special contract at below market prices
because they are too small by law for the Aler to rent normally (35 sq. m.). Persons are
expected to stay in these flats for 6 months, but additional periods of stay are normally
admitted as clients are not always ready to make an independent step towards more
autonomous solutions.


                                                                                                 26
For accommodation in ordinary housing the association gives support to access to public
housing, in a few cases to private housing. The association works in strict co-operation with
other private and public sector agencies as regards the needs for job insertion and training,
etc.

The accommodation facilities of the Cena dell‟Amicizia are for use by male adults only in
the 18 to 45 year age range. During the entire period of stay in transitional apartments,
occupants remain in close contact with the voluntary associations and continue to be
supported by social services. Occupants are not assisted to find their own permanent
accommodation in public sector housing until they have completed their reintegration plan.

Users of the Cena dell‟Amicizia day centre in Milan are mostly occupants of the
organisation‟s accommodation facilities. Free time here is organised with games,
socialisation and small manual jobs.

Both the accommodation facilities and the day centre are now located on the Northern
outskirts of the city, in particularly poor areas. At present the service is considering
concentrating all its facilities in one single area. In order to integrate more closely into the
social fabric of the community, the association has started to publicise its activity among
local residents, to take an active part in various local activities and also to use local sporting
facilities (e.g. bowling clubs).

The Cena dell‟Amicizia association, in co-operation with the other associations that run
transitional accommodation facilities, have set up the Laboratorio (Workshop), a day centre
in which about ten users, interviewed and admitted by the staff, come to work. These are
individuals with particular characteristics, suitable for a reintegration plan: constancy,
commitment, will power. Attendance at the Laboratorio, as in the case of transitional
accommodation, should also constitute a transition phase in the path to autonomy and as a
general rule should not last longer than five years to avoid the risk of stagnation, both of
users and of the centre itself. The work done may be assembly work, craft work or
woodwork and the proceeds are distributed according to the actual work done by each
individual. Most of the users of the day centre are occupants of community lodgings or
protected apartments run by the association. New occupants of the association‟s
accommodation are allowed a brief period of time before starting at the day centre so that
staff can observe a newcomer‟s attitude in interpersonal relations.

The Cena dell‟Amicizia association has close contacts with the Municipal Training Office.
They are jointly setting up a training course given by a teacher whose task is not only to
teach occupational skills, but also to communicate enthusiasm for the work done. Users can
then obtain work experience with firms operating in this sector. Help with work integration
for these people has also come recently from government financial incentives to social co-
operatives that have increased the number of their employees.

Cena dell‟Amicizia is a good example of a voluntary network type operation: it builds its
own relations with other services and co-operates with them. It co-operates with the Milan
Caritas which acts as a filter, making referrals for places in the association‟s accommodation
                                                                                               27
facilities and co-operates in drawing up individual plans; with the Municipal Young Persons
Office organising “work scholarship” projects/with which “work grant” plans are run); with
trade unions for employment aspects; with Psycho-social Centres for the therapy of
occupants; with the Alcoholics Treatment Centre for psychological support; with the Aler
(public sector housing) to obtain small apartments requiring repair/renovation, and with
voluntary organisations.

The association received funds from the Cariplo Foundation (a bank foundation) for
refurbishing apartments from the Aler; this covered 50 per cent of the cost. The same
foundation will pay 100 per cent of the cost of refurbishing a further 10 apartments. The
association also receives funding from the municipality and the Regional authority.

The Cena dell‟Amicizia estimates that approximately 10 per cent of service users re-acquire
full autonomy, but that all the users (approximately 250 in seven years) “have found also
relief and dignity there, as well as an incentive for the future”.




Caritas Network


3. As compared with Cena dell„Amicizia, the cases found with the Caritas network are more
heterogeneous: ranging from persons hit by serious marginalisation problems
(desocialisation etc.) and which have been involved in “individual reintegration plans” (in
some cases with Cena dell„Amicizia) to persons which are rather characterised by “simple”
poverty syndromes. Most of these cases illustrate reinsertion/rehousing experiences which
did not occur according to the strict requirements of “individual reintegration plans”, but
through less structured (yet more or less supported by services and workers) forms of
combination of the various welfare opportunities.


Scarp de Tenis - one of three street newspaper published in Milan, property of Caritas and
involving in its production and circulation a very heterogeneous group of persons - is a
perfect example of how this resource may combine with other and shows how the
reintegration process requires to be analysed with reference to a complex network of actions
and of actors.

The reintegration work in these cases makes clear the complex public and private sector mix,
and the particular role played by the initiatives connected with the RC church. For instance,
the religious origin of many of these initiatives has in many cases made it possible to obtain
housing facilities provided by church institutions. Furthermore, it has facilitated the
connection in network of supported accommodation initiatives with community networks of
services already provided by religious institutions.


                                                                                           28
An important role from this point of view is played by the Advice („listening‟) Centres,
which listen to spontaneous requests for help from the whole of the „in need‟ population. The
centres perform the function of directing people to the appropriate services and, in many
cases, satisfy immediate emergency needs, such as food and clothing themselves. Caritas
alone has 20 listening centres in Milan. They rarely provide actual services themselves, but
co-ordinate church connected services and act as a filter for access to services.

These associations also had a primary role in attempts to create joint working groups with the
aim of constructing operational networks of co-operation and of involving the local
administration in taking overall responsibility for action against exclusion.
A major role is played by Siloe (see Part 1, par. 4). The workers dedicate considerable time to “listening”,
through repeated interviews, to the personal history of users. They feel this is very important for decoding
the need and reconstructing the causes at the basis of the hardship. Subsequently individual casework plans
are drawn up together with the relevant services available in the community, taking account of all the
problems that have emerged. Housing is treated, as one of the dimensions of hardship, through advice and
help in searching for accommodation in private rental market or public sector housing or through resort to
community facilities, above all for finding emergency or temporary solutions.

Siloe provide advice and financial subsidies to those with difficulties in maintaining existing
accommodation. For public sector housing tenants Siloe maintains constant relations with the Aler, the
Municipality, the tenants unions, voluntary associations, local government agencies and foundations to: help
keep accommodation in cases of rent arrears or legalisable abusive occupation ; to obtain payment by
instalment or reductions of debts by making payments to help with arrears with gas and electricity; to assist
with applications to the Fondo Sociale (welfare fund for rent supplement payments) ; to obtain reductions in
rent levels etc.

Siloe receives about 100 telephone calls and performs more than 100 starting interviews each
month. Of the 107 cases concerning the housing area dealt with in 1998, 35 per cent concerned
cases of eviction from public housing, 18 per cent eviction from private sector housing, 8 per cent
abusive occupation, 12 per cent abusive occupation that could be made legal and 27 per cent the
search for new accommodation.

As already said, in Milan most accommodation facilities targeted at foreigners are run by the
RC connected private welfare sector, even if under contract or funded by the public sector
(municipality and province). RC voluntary associations, Caritas and the welfare co-
operatives that emanate from them - Farsi Prossimo is the most important - play a crucial
role in this sector.

In addition to emergency and transitional facilities for immigrants, one of which is run under
contract to the municipality, the Farsi Prossimo Co-operative also manages two
“community-lodgings” centres/“community hostels” for AIDS sufferers and one for the
mentally ill, and seven group apartments. Access to these facilities is by referral from (local)
government agencies, advice centres or voluntary associations and dependent on the drawing
up of an individual reintegration plan jointly with the relevant services (Operational nucleus
for drug addicts, Psycho-social centres, Local Health Authority and municipal services).
Social support is provided in close co-operation with area social services.


                                                                                                          29
Farsi Prossimo provides rehousing support in different ways:
- direct provision of accommodation - in special purpose facilities or apartments - and social
support, tied to reintegration plans (using its own facilities or those managed by the
municipality of Milan)
- co-operation with other agencies for the development of individual reintegration plans
- assistance and advice in finding accommodation for users of their facilities.




Methodology of research

1. Accommodation relevant for this research project was determined on the basis of two
criteria:
(a) shall be accommodation in ordinary housing (self-contained flats);
(b) shall include all the various uses that of ordinary housing may be made:
i. persons in transitional accommodation (ordinary housing, special lease). (Persons in this
form of accommodation were persons following a reintegration plan with Cena
dell‟Amicizia, presently in transitional accommodation);
ii. persons living in ordinary housing in a more or less autonomous way (ordinary housing
and ordinary lease/tenure). (Persons in this form of accommodation had access to ordinary
(usually public) housing after having completed an individual reintegration plan; or as an
outcome of a process different from an individual reintegration programme: for instance,
directly from shelter to ordinary housing, on the basis of individual demand.


2. The sample (in fact the exploratory approach of the research project implies a selection of
“case studies”, rather than a real “sample”) includes 11 persons who had been homeless for a
minimum period of half a year and had moved to ordinary housing (10 months at least). All
the interviewees are male. This makes the sample homogeneous as for one the main
variables. After all (in Italy), “the condition of being of no abode is above all a male
problem. In the case at least of native Italians, these are people who have completely failed in
their life plans and men are more exposed to this than women, presumably because of the
different social roles expected of the two genders and the greater exposure of men to
substance abuse” (Commissione 2001).

Following the first 10 interviews, a focus group with 6 of the interviewed persons took place.

The 11 interviews completed regard:
- four persons in transitional accommodation (social housing, special lease; all of them in the
waiting list for ordinary public housing; none has stabilised in transitional accommodation),
                                                                                             30
- seven persons living in ordinary housing (seven in public housing, one in private market).

The public housing flats are occupied by the persons interviewed according to three different
formulas:
- public housing given to associations (such as Cena dell‟Amicizia) and used by associations
in order to realise their reinsertion programmes (in the case of Cena dell‟Amicizia: as
transitory accommodation)
- public housing given to associations (for instance, “social real estate” associations) as a way
to meet specific types of social demand, and that the associations sublet
- ordinary public housing, allocated by normal or special (emergency/social cases)
procedures.



3. The study is based on qualitative in-depth interviews with the rehoused persons, according
to the following outline:


1. Individual biography and career of homelessness
the path to homelessness
homelessness career
accommodation experiences
contacts with drugs etc.
use of services
-   trying to get out


2. Towards reintegration
- the contact with the association and the development of the process
- the individual reintegration project
- the accommodation solutions experienced


3. After re-housing


* Social relationships, resources, capabilities, autonomy: changes and continuities
- the financial situation (and coping with financial resources)
- integration into employment or training; importance of work
- social ties, family and friends; social competence; loneliness and isolation
- health situation, coping with health problems; mental health and dependency problems
- the organisation of daily life; free time; travelling and mobility
- the development of capacities to solve personal problems and to cope with administrations and institutions
- positive/negative experiences with services
                                                                                                          31
* Experiences in crisis situations (being in danger, how they and others reacted etc.)

* Evaluations, expectations and perspectives for the future
- felt that their situation had improved (quality of life, integration, autonomy)?
- missing something meaningful to do
- plans and fears concerning the future


* On the “ordinary model”
- elements for evaluation of appropriateness (in the specific case) of the ordinary model versus protected
forms etc.

* Accommodation
- moving between different forms of accommodation
- the sort of housing provided/achieved: kind, quality and price; neighbourhood, infrastructure
- satisfaction with housing (incl. neighbourhood, area, rent burden etc.)
- financial problems, relations with landlord etc.
- relations with other tenants in the house
- appropriateness/appropriation (“problems to make their dwelling a home”)
- elements for comparison with alternative forms of accommodation (special housing etc.)
- plans for the future

* Social support
- which type of support is offered by whom; co-operation between agencies; who is providing the support
(trained and paid personnel, volunteers, peers etc.)
- kind and location of support: is support provided in offices or by home visits (or both)?
- availability and needs orientation of support: is support offered according to needs, is it flexible enough to
be available in crisis situation and in different intensity at different periods, is there a basis for confidential
relationships etc.?
- evolution of the need of support
- good and bad experiences in situations when support was needed
- willingness of re-housed persons to co-operate and satisfaction with co-operation


* The importance of other actors
- importance of support by agencies outside the directly involved support network
- importance of relatives and informal networks
- influence of other actors (like juridical system, police, creditors, landlords etc.)




4. The fieldwork turned out to be even more difficult than expected. Notwithstanding the co-
operation of Cena dell‟Amicizia, we had serious problems and delays in getting in touch with
these persons. In October we decided to involve other agencies. Also we decided to pay
about 25 Euros per interview.
                                                                                                                32
Yet the final number of cases is under the planned total, in spite of careful search with most
associations working on reintegration of homeless. The difficulties in reaching the number is
interesting in itself, has to do with the question of the success of reintegration/rehousing.
The possible explanations are:


- the distrust and scarce interest of some associations (besides Cena dell‟Amicizia and the
Caritas network, three associations were contacted), raising questions on the relationships
between social action and social research, but also on the self-referential character of many
voluntary associations etc.
- the small number of cases dealt with - a few hundreds in a city in which the associations
estimate the number of no abode persons at around 4,000. However, it must be considered
that many reintegration processes occur without involving specific “plans” - thus without
creating strong links with the agencies
- the type of relationships that the associations establish with their clients: often they lose the
contact - a fact which not necessarily means failure of the intervention
- and, of course, the lack of interest of the persons reintegrated for accepting the interview:
because it may appear as useless, but also because they may be unwilling to “return” on their
history - an experience they have got over, in any case a painful experience - or to re-activate
relations with the persons involved in their reintegration history: which once again is not
necessarily a sign of failure...


An important consequence for the analysis: the selection we got is probably higher than
planned, acceptance of the interview in this context probably means that he success cases are
over-represented.

Applying a procedure that this research group had already tried out, each interview was
“appraised” by three judges (the interviewer, and two other members of the research group),
and discussed by the group in order to reach a consensus on the various issues.



5. Six persons attended the Focus group (seven were invited). The selection criteria was: (a)
inclusion of all the main “hardship“ types revealed by the interviews; (b) a certain
homogeneity - i. e. exclusion of experiences (immigrants) which could make the comparison
too difficult. In the case of the Focus group too, a fee of about 25 Euros was provided.

The Focus group was aimed at going deeper - starting from the “return” of the results of the
interviews to the participant - into the main results and the points of uncertainty; moreover at
developing the evaluation that the interviewees had given on the services and the
reintegration plans, and the recommendations for improvement of services and support.


                                                                                                33
The outline for the Focus group was the following:
      Elements of satisfaction/dissatisfaction in their present “equilibrium“: strengthening of capabilities,
       of resources etc.; areas in which (more) support is still necessary; work from this point of view
      Effectiveness of support received in their history; holes in the support system
      Experience and evaluation on reintegration plans and other reintegration experiences
       Evaluation of services and welfare resources
      Housing: its role in progressing/achieving autonomy and reintegration; problems
      Imagining the future...


The contribution of the Focus group to the research project was extremely important, in both
adding new information and in modifying the picture obtained from the interviews.

On one side, the interaction effect fostered better focalisation of various aspects of personal
experience. The characterisation of some participants turned out to be partially different as
compared with what had appeared from the interviews.

On the other side, the interaction process induced a bright discussion on reintegration plans
(their value and limits, and their role given the different problems of the participants) and a
rich evaluation of services and of the context resources on which depends the
possibility/efficacy of reintegration.

The Interviews were carried out between July and December; the focus groups the 20th of
December.




                                                                                                           34
Results


1. Characteristics of persons interviewed


1. The sample includes people with different problems, different social and rehousing
reintegration histories and with experiences of living on the street for different lengths of
time. The main identifying features are as follows:



     Age    Origin/Natio- (Additional)     How long they have Current                        How long they
            nality        problems      in been homeless      accommodation                  have been living
                          their history                                                      in this form of
                                                                                             accommodation
1    30     Cameroon      Immigrant         Street: 5 days               Owner-occupation    6 month (after a
                                                                         (20 years loan)     period in shared
                                            Shelters: 20 months
                                                                                             housing)
2    31     North Italy                     Street: 11 months    Transitional        2 years
                                            Emergency shelter: 2 accommodation;
                                                                 waiting    list for
                                            months
                                                                 public housing
3    60     North Italy   Mental            Various periods on the Transitional        1 year
                                            street                 accommodation;
                                            Public dormitory: 10 waiting      list for
                                                                   public housing
                                            months
                                            Protected lodging: 18
                                            months
4    29     Kosovo        Immigrant         Shelters: 2 years            Rental,      private 4 months
                                                                         market              (after a period in
                                                                                             shared housing)
5    45     South Italy                     Street: 7 days      Public     housing 1 year
                                                                managed    by    a
                                            Public dormitory: 3
                                                                foundation
                                            months
                                            Precarious
                                            accommodation          for
                                            months
6    65     South Italy   Health            Dormitory: 6 years           Public housing      1 year
                          (Mental)          Street: 4 years
7    58     South Italy                     Various, for 5 years         Public housing      2 years
8    39     North Italy   Mental            Emergency shelters: Transitional        2 years
                                            more than 3 years   accommodation;
                          Alcohol
                                                                waiting    list for

                                                                                                         35
                                                                           public housing
9     40      North Italy      Health             Dormitory: 6 month       Flat   in      private 1 year
                                                                           market
10    37      North Italy      Alcohol            Street: 7 years          Transitional        2 years
                                                                           accommodation;
                               Drug               Shelters: 1 year
                                                                           waiting    list for
                               Prison                                      public housing
11    70      South Italy      Mental             Dormitory: 2 years       Public housing         2 years




The matrix of suffering that accompanies the lives of these persons is the common
identifying trait of their experiences. For the rest, our interviews confirm that “there are
numerous different no abode figures, with different histories, identities, cultures and
mentality”, “different ways of being of no abode depending on characteristics and personal
histories and the survival strategies employed to tackle life on the streets” (Commissione
2001).
“As shown by studies and research on poverty, in most cases the condition of socio-economic hardship is
the outcome of a process during which a chain of event occurs. These events progressively require the use of
greater and greater resources until the capacity of the individual or the family to satisfy their own needs is
exhausted. Basically, in general, the condition of poverty cannot be put down to one specific circumstance
but to a progressive worsening of life as a whole. In the case of persons of no abode, however, a
“precipitating” event can often be traced which marks the breaking point in their life histories. Usually it is
the circumstance in which the home was lost. In most cases, however, there are events which weigh on
situations - individual or family - that have already been weakened, in which resources or capacities are
already scarce both because of intrinsic fragility - atypical families, scarce cultural resources, scarce
financial resources - and because of a previous succession of destabilising events - illnesses, bereavements,
psychological problems and unemployment. There are often “events-catastrophes” at the origin of a no
abode condition which unload onto a multiplicity of factors to produce vicious circles that it is very difficult
to exit from. The spheres in which these events most frequently occur are those of work and family
relationships”.

This is confirmed - generally speaking - by our histories. As it is one characteristic trait of
Italian no abode case histories, the fragility of the original background, the high exposure,
that is, to possible paths to poverty. “The fragility factors which have origin in the family
world are probably most strong, especially when they regard childhood and the teens”
(ibidem).


2. Beyond these general common traits, it is important to remark the differences. The interest
of introducing a certain number of distinctions is justified from two points of view. On the
one hand it is part of our hypothesis that even people from extreme situations - homeless
people with multiple problems or with a long career of homelessness and of life in
institutions – “are, with very few exceptions, able to cope permanently in normal housing if
they receive the necessary support”. On the other hand the current debate insists that the
paths to reintegration/rehousing require specific strategies for persons in extreme situations:
                                                                                                             36
"plans" in the strong sense of the word, while for people in other situations it might be more
rational to assist by providing help on specific points such as work, housing, etc. More
generally, the distinction between different experiences and histories is required in order to
differentiate interventions and policies, the differences make clear the need to differentiate
between policies.

As far as concerns the basic problems which give rise to and characterise marginalisation
case histories, the fundamental distinction is that between vectors with their roots in poverty
- low income above all - and those originating from “personal” disadvantages or pathologies.
Both types of factor may be found together, but in most cases the dominance of one set of
factors makes it relatively easy to identify the individual histories in this sense.

In a certain number of cases the predominant problem is a background of poverty, poverty
“inherited” from the family of origin: these are people from poor or very poor families, in
which it is not uncommon to find other problem factors. They are usually families from
southern Italy: some of our interviewees had attempted to escape poverty by using the
traditional means in the long history of southern Italian poverty, that of emigration. These are
therefore situations characterised by disadvantages “from the outset” (a scarcity of job skills,
weak personal relationships, etc.). On the other hand, an illness, the loss of a job, or a family
break-up, in a context of insecurity is sufficient to trigger the drift into marginalisation.

These situations - which we will call “poverty syndromes” - have different effects depending
on whether other disadvantages are present or appear at a certain point in the case histories.
In some cases these are people who are simply poor, while in others there are additional
factors (often occurring later): mental problems, illnesses, deviancies of various types, etc.

Another possible type is given by those cases in which the history of marginalisation and its
development - and, at least to some extent, also the current situation - are heavily or
predominantly determined by one or more “social problems”, or specific pathologies:
psychiatric problems or alcoholism more often than not.



Finally there are cases in which the history of marginalisation can be explained neither by
poverty (in the sense mentioned), nor by particular pathologies or by particular problems of
deviance: these are people who do not come from poor families, and who are generally
equipped with reasonable or good resources, job skills and the ability to form relationships,
being without any personal handicaps. These cases illustrate that even persons with a high
level of resources may be affected by factors - events or chains of events - which result in
homelessness. They immediately raise the question of the adequacy of the system of
guarantees and protection provided by the welfare system. One example is the lack of cover
that the system provides for those in insecure jobs. At least one of the persons in our sample
seems to have become homeless due to bad luck in insecure work.


                                                                                              37
3. A second distinction concerns the severity (and the dynamics) of the history of
marginalisation. Some histories constitute true and genuine drifting, corresponding to the
conventional description of the “homeless”, or to those who in Italy are defined as “persons
of no abode”, strongly marginalised homeless persons and/or at advanced stages in the
process of social exclusion, characterised by multiple deprivation etc. The drift into
homelessness may have different origins (coming from a background of poverty, precarious
material resources, the existence of pathologies/deviancies, or often combinations of these)
and different dynamics (dramatic events, or a gradual decline following repeated micro
traumas, histories of repeated institutionalisation, etc.). In any case these are multiple
problem situations, often with cumulative type developments and a tendency to become
chronic. They are situations where the need for an exacting plan for social reintegration is
much clearer. This type of syndrome is more frequent in our sample among the cases treated
by the Cena dell'Amicizia.

Other histories, however, do not constitute true and genuine cases of marginalisation, or are
not so extreme - as with situations tackled at a fairly early stage thereby preventing serious
drifting and a chronic condition or with situations characterised by specific types of problem
(housing and job/income) which have not involved desocialisation etc. This type of case was
quite frequent among interviewees who worked with the Scarp de Tenis and among
immigrants.

Immigrants, as expected, constitute a case apart. The case histories of the immigrants we
interviewed are not “histories of homelessness”, except in the sense that the persons had
passed quite a long period of their lives - the initial period immediately after their arrival in
Italy - in reception centres and dormitories. In effect their problems are above all those
typical of the insecurity characteristic of the initial phase of a migration case history, the
difficulties with the first job and accommodation, often aggravated (as in our cases) by the
lack of a stay permit. In this phase they are heavily dependent on services. Later, better work
and legalisation of their position triggers (for most) a process of integration that makes them
autonomous. During the homelessness phase these are typical cases for which a plan in the
strong sense of the word is not necessary, but rather where specific assistance with housing
and work is called for.

The distinction between Italians and foreign immigrants is the main interpretative key in the
survey on the no abode promoted in 2000 by the Commissione di indagine sull‟esclusione
sociale.

“The case histories of persons who end up on the streets are different: in the case of Italians they have failed
at a relatively mature age, while in the case of foreigners their no abode condition is clearly linked to their
migration. This distinction between “Italian” case histories and “foreign” case histories is probably the best
key to interpreting the phenomenon at national level”.

There is a clear correlation with the duration of the no abode condition. “The duration of the condition of no
abode for Italians is quite variable. Almost one fifth had been of no abode for at least 10 years. These are
persons in extremely rundown condition, with a high probability of having lost all possibility/capacity of
independently returning to acceptable conditions of life. In the case of foreigners, the fact that the large

                                                                                                             38
majority have started to lead this life relatively recently leads one to suppose that many will return to, or
reach, “normality”. For a large proportion of foreigners of no abode - even if not for all - having to adapt to
extremely precarious accommodation is, at times, a transitory condition along the migratory road. The
precariousness in this sense may mean difficulty in integrating into the working and social fabric of society,
but it is a problem which they might solve in the future. This does not make the conditions of life of these
people who spend sometimes short, sometimes long periods in extremely difficult housing conditions and
receive very little institutional assistance any less serious”.

On the question of accommodation too, the most effective key to interpretation is that which distinguishes
between Italians and foreigners. For a significant number of foreigners, the course of a migratory path and
integration into Italian society leads to stages of inadequate housing accommodation. They are certainly
situations in which they find it impossible to satisfy fundamental personal needs. The situation of the
Italians, however, seems to be characterised by the presence of a large proportion of persons who have
seriously deviated from the more diffuse models of life. As we have seen, the Italian no abode have been in
that condition for many years longer than the foreigners, adapting for the most part to extremely precarious
housing conditions. Or perhaps it is actually because the Italians who become of no abode are more often on
a progressive path to isolation and degeneration of their personal capabilities and social capacities than
foreigners are, that they are more likely to be found among those who are unable to find a shelter no matter
how precarious. Foreigners on the other hand are more likely to find strategies for permanent housing where
what is missing is not so much the capability or the desire to stay in housing as the housing itself, or the
money to rent it. And that is not all; for foreigners, the “temporary” condition of being of no abode can be
knowingly accepted, if not “chosen”, to contain the cost of the initial phase of settling in Italy where the risk
is that if that phase is too long, not only is their health compromised and therefore the chances of a normal
life, but the very chance to integrate into a network of relationships that allow them to get out of their no
abode condition” (Commissione 2001).




2. Social reintegration: autonomy and quality of life


4. All the persons interviewed had achieved a certain degree of autonomy (at different levels,
but in any case sufficient to live in a house) and most still have problems (with elements of
precariousness that are variable and of differing importance). If we consider the reintegration
histories - of which housing, as we will see, is a fundamental component - these are all
“success stories”: life is better than before for all of them, and if they still need social
support, it is usually circumscribed and not so intense.

Almost all of them perceive the progress they have made, the reintegration and the degree of
autonomy they have achieved, positively.

Only very few persons (two or three, apart from the immigrants interviewed) have achieved
full autonomy. Mostly it is rather a case of relative autonomy, which nevertheless -
considering the starting point - justifies the use of the word success.

The interviews illustrate the complexity of the individual case histories, the variety of the
reintegration experiences and the different “equilibriums” achieved in the lives of the


                                                                                                              39
different persons as the outcome of reintegration. On this basis the current level of autonomy
and the quality of life can be assessed and interpreted as a function of two criteria:

- the differences in the various areas of autonomy/improvement. (The interview was
organised around a series of areas with relative indicators: economic and work situation,
social relations, health, organisation of social life, ability to resolve personal problems, or to
relate to administrations, institutions, services, expectations and prospects for the future);

- the extent and meaning of the “problems” and the elements of marginalisation which
persist after re-inclusion and rehousing in ordinary housing.


5. Some equilibriums exist in a context of accentuated economic/work insecurity/weakness -
to the point of dire poverty: this particularly regards cases that we have defined as poverty
syndromes. Even if positive elements concerning work and the development of positive
motivations and so on do exist in their current experience, there is no economic
independence through work in these cases, nor - given the age, state of health, etc. - can it be
hypothesised for the future. Work may play an important, even psychological role, but social
assistance intervention is a necessary condition for equilibrium in these cases: both welfare
type protection, and also - usually - personal relationship support. It is often, in these cases, a
question of “low-level” equilibriums, achieved in the presence of - or thanks to - a lowering
of aspirations, if not of actual resignation.

In other cases it is the existence of serious problems - or particular pathologies that have
made their mark on personal life histories - that limits autonomy, rather than, or without,
economic problems having a determining effect. Equilibrium and autonomy therefore depend
above all on the ability to cope with those problems.

In yet other cases economic/work weakness and the persistence of serious problems are
found together. If the unsolved problems are particularly serious, then the mix between
autonomy and condition of need constitutes the typical case for “transitional/sheltered
housing”: semi-autonomy, a path to re-inclusion not yet completed.

If we analyse case histories and the construction of current equilibriums we see - apart from
the variety of individual experiences - some principal elements on which integration and
reintegration are based. Factors that emerge are the importance of work and of help that
arrives through personal relations.


6. Taken together, these elements correspond to the basic “integration vectors” (Castel 1995):
work - not only because of the income it produces, but because of the system of relations and
meanings in which it is located - and social relationships and networks. Seen at the level of
process “agents” , these dimensions indicate the dual nature of the help required to encourage
integration: institutions and relations. Both are in any case a necessary condition for
integration. In one sense because the resources used are both “services” (units of supply
presented, often formally, as such) or help provided by the personal relations (informal); and
                                                                                                40
in another because even in the case of service provision, the personal relationship
component has a value based on principles of “reciprocity” (defined at times by comparison
with experiences of services in which this factor seems to be absent). The value of an
individual reintegration plan also lies in its combination of the two types of dimension, but
this combination, less heavily applied, occurs in every reintegration process.


7. The interviews illustrate the fundamental role played by “relational” dimensions - social
relationships and social ties, formal and informal networks as bases for material and
emotional support: they characterise the marginalisation histories, and play a basic role in the
reintegration processes and in defining the present equilibrium of their lives.
As concerns the homelessness experiences, they are marked - in the report of our interviewees - by the
absence or the fragility of formal and informal networks, with all their potential as emotional and material
resources. “One of the main reasons for the great precariousness of the lives of the no abode lies in their
inability to count on a sufficiently robust network of support. Solitude is a characteristic trait of a great many
of the no abode”. “The possibility of the no abode to gain access to relationship networks - family, friends or
institutional - is extremely small if not non existent. Friendship networks seem stronger than family
networks. They are, however, in most cases, friendships with other persons of no abode: relationships in
which the circulation of resources is modest” (Commissione 2001).


The retrospective reconstruction of their experience stresses the meaning of the relationship
dimension both before and during the reintegration process. During the reintegration
processes, the relational opportunities have been a basic resource, and the importance of the
interplay between formal (professional) and informal support (friends and relatives) appears
very clearly. The personal character of the relationship gives sense and largely determines
the efficacy of services and institutional intervention (see par. 14).

“I realised that people here loved me... When I run away from the community, they looked for me in
canteens, the boys who stayed here told me...”


As for the present equilibrium, the relational dimension appears as a fundamental ingredient,
widely acknowledged by our interviewees: in the appreciation of meaningful relationships
and persons, emphasis on networks “recovered”, and also the evocation and nostalgia of lost
or impossible relationships.

I have sound friends I see rather frequently, I see my brother weekly... then my doctor, I see him every week,
tonight we will have dinner together, then I have a friend who was a colleague of mine.

As for my son and my wife, I saw them last month. But there are problems... Now I don‟t know when I‟ll see
them (...). Now I get on well with my brothers, I go for dinner to one of my sisters every month on Sunday
(...). I hope to “recover” with my wife...

I am in touch with my aunt. My sister, I haven‟t seen her these years... They feel ashamed of me for what I
did. They don‟t give me another chance. I would like to recover contact with her, say to her that... much
more to show her how I am now. I hope she want to see me again some day...
                                                                                                               41
Loneliness and social isolation are a problem for many of our interviewees, and represent a
major limitation to their reintegration and equilibrium.

I have two brothers, I would say that my relationships with them are normal (...) I have had some depression,
some psychological troubles, I am alone, this is a life completely different from family (...) I have got used
to live alone. I did it for more than thirty years abroad. Clearly, if you live with another person you can
share, you can help each other from a psychological point of view, have a conversation daily, the
psychiatrist, you go once a month, I miss a wife...

I miss everything, I am always alone, I miss my sons, I meet with a lot of people which treat me as a peculiar
person.


8. Employment is very important in reintegration and in determining the equilibrium and
level of autonomy achieved, both as a source of income and because of the meaning/value it
assumes in the equilibrium of an individual‟s life.

If there were more work opportunities for emarginated persons it would solve a lot of problems... if there is
the chance to work, the hostels and services in the community can be useful.

Now I have a great job... Caritas really helped me, not with money, but to find a job.


The types of work insertion are different. Two problems however are evident and
characterise the whole of the work situation of these persons: the precariousness of most
arrangements and the “objective” (personal and context) limitations that prevent normal work
insertion; and the weakness of the contribution that work gives to their economic/financial
autonomy - their survival normally depends on their ability/possibility of combining different
sources of income.
I have been a professional researcher... I have got an invalidity pension, and I work with an office of an
important NGO, which gives me a certain income, sufficient to get off... The service gives me vouchers for
meals (...). By cumulating various sources - financial support, work (at reduced income), housing at social
rent etc.) I can reach a reasonable level of autonomy, one can make both ends meet.

I work with Scarp de Tenis, for me as for many it has been a sheet-anchor - it enables me to live, to pay food
and rent (...). I get some 500.000 liras (about 260 euro) monthly (...) I am able to cover my expenses: I also
have some casual work. For instance such work as in call-centres, even if they prefer young university
students (...) I am not autonomous yet: I have a job for two-three months, then they can dismiss me for
various reasons.

For some of the older people, the subject of work is closely connected with their economic
level. A job as selling the newspaper Scarp de Tenis seems appropriate to their level of
expectations. The problem that arises in these cases is how they can add to the low income
that this type of work gives them.


                                                                                                           42
For most persons, however, work is seen not only as a source of income, but also as an
instrument of personal achievement, of attaining normality, as an element of emancipation
from the network of social service support. In this perspective some interviewees emphasise
the need that work insertion be suitable, compatible. Naturally the level of work makes a
difference, although its value in terms of integration is always present even in cases of very
modest and insecure work.


Now I have shown them, and above all myself, that I am not a cipher.

I still go to the psychiatrist sometimes, but my real therapy is to be active, also work is important for me not
only for income, as an aim to realise in my life.

I work (conveyance) for the Municipality. Mostly we do this to stay with other, to stay with people that are
different... This is not hard work, you can take your breaks.

I feel quite well, I make myself useful but I am not overworked, there is no stress, it‟s a positive situation.



Work is an area that continues to be critical for many. Few have a normal job. Many are
unable to do normal jobs or are in any case considered incapable of doing one. There are
many “job grant” and precarious type jobs, and “normal” jobs are often part time and not full
salary. The younger persons put the accent on the promise of a normal/permanent job in the
near future.

This problem is also stressed in the report on the survey of the Commissione (2001). “Work is often seen as
the road to the return to normal life, but the labour market only offers marginal and precarious areas of work
to the no abode pushing almost all of them into clandestine and precarious work. The range of occupations
given by those interviewed is extremely wide: cleaner, abusive car parker, truck driver, street newspaper
seller, agricultural labourer, nurse, car washer, welder, mechanic, house painter, brick layer, labourer, tile
layer, domestic, gardener, leaflet distributor, shepherd, street musician, translator, charcoal burner, doll-
maker, theatrical promoter, street market unloader, ice cream maker, beer transporter... Many of the no
abode have partially or completely - old age, sickness - lost the ability to do a job. But it is very difficult
even for those who are able to work to find a good job, often because employers dismiss them when they
discover they are of no abode or because they are obliged to put up with very precarious pay and
conditions”.


The hardships and problems that interviewees reported reflect this job insecurity and
weakness, the difficulty in drawing normal, economic, personal relationship and symbolic
benefits from it. The stigmatisation increases the precariousness and it can be particularly
penalising for work. On the other hand differential treatment is experienced as unjust and
“discriminating” especially when it is not justified by the need to learn a trade.

I was afraid, because I had never worked... and I feared they could discover what I had been, an alcoholist.

This resistance may be justified: not because I had to learn the job but because the starting condition gives
rise to distrust - and even now my role remains somehow marginalised. (...) There is a distrust of “normal”
persons, even if we are not guilty of anything, we start from below zero…
                                                                                                                  43
To a large extent these observations open up questions over protected jobs, “half jobs” or
small jobs: the need to add to them and find additional sources of income in the presence of
keen competition for access to these jobs; the difficulty in giving value to work in a situation
where it is difficult to find a balance between protection and autonomy.

To many the sale of newspapers on the street seems a good enough job: as a source of a slice
of income and often as a means of giving meaning to their lives. A look at the assessment
made by interviewees of the experience with Scarp de Tenis, shows an additional advantage
of the street newspaper. As has been said, the interviewees complain that it is difficult to get
“small jobs”: Scarp de Tenis is an “environment“ - a vehicle which provides access to a
small job, it meets the requirement of organising and encouraging access to this type of
resource.


9. The resources of individuals prior to their experience on the streets - occupational and
personal relationship skills in particular - are extremely important to the outcome of
reintegration. For example appropriate skills are required to gain access to services or to
construct a bricolage of the various resources available and they were found in different
measure among our interviewees and to a large extent reflect their personal histories. The
network of relationships available to them before ending up on the streets is important for
escaping from the street. “It is the particular nature of my previous work that allowed me to
go on: I have skills that are not common in the world of marginalisation.... Starting from a
privileged condition constitutes a privilege in the end, even if you are in exactly the same
conditions as the others when you are on the street”.


10. Welfare protection is an important and necessary condition for almost all the new
equilibriums achieved and housing plays a fundamental role in this. Low cost housing is an
important resource when all resources are considered together.




3. Rehousing and the re-integration process


11. None of our interviewees was simply in need of accommodation, all of them had
problems which implied action on different sides, in most cases some form of “integrated”
action. However, for all of them the housing dimension was found to be a basic ingredient of
the social reintegration process. Rehousing in normal accommodation represented an
essential step in the path to reintegration. Housing was fundamental to improving their lives
for all interviewees. Having arrived in more or less normal housing accommodation was one
of the main elements of satisfaction. All had performed positive actions to gain their “own”
home. Those in sheltered/transitional accommodation aspire to a home in the full sense -

                                                                                             44
rented social housing accommodation for most of them, but sometimes even more binding
solutions.


Which aspects confer a positive role on housing provision in the reintegration process? And
which aspects of the housing experience were found to be positive and which difficult?

The experience of interviewees confirmed that the good reasons for rehousing in normal
housing are largely related to the power of “normality” and of the “home” experience (as
something distinct/different from just being housed). A home is “normality”. For the
majority, the positiveness was connected with creating that system of values that is
connected with home: comfort, privacy, freedom and independence - the latter being a
particularly meaningful value for many of those interviewed who had a history of wandering
and repeated institutionalisation and who had acquired a home by means of a plan which had
in turn meant acquiring independence.

To have a home is to have a normal life - it‟s a psychological matter.

I am free to do what I want now, I have a home, I can stay out as much as I want, I can eat what I want.

It had already been furnished by the Cena, then I added the stereo... which was the first present I made to
myself when I came here. The television, a computer with a masteriser and DVD and everything... Every
now and then, even if the place is very small I make a dinner and I invite people.


I have a home, pay rent, buy what I like: suits, shoes (...) I like very much to have people at home. To speak
with people is good...


I invite my friends sometimes. I like to stay at home, for me home is very important.


It‟s a great satisfaction, the conquest of something that is yours, when I was in big home with my family I
didn‟t appreciate it, I didn‟t understand, now I greatly appreciate this flat, even if so small, I think of the past
when I hadn‟t even a 1,000 liras...


12. It is important not to overlook the functional/economic value of housing: an obvious fact
for people with precarious resources which obviously does not exclude an affective
investment, but which can be decisive in determining the meaning of the relationship with
the accommodation. For some interviewees with a history of “poverty”, housing is
appreciated more as satisfying a necessity or for the low cost which is only possible in these
types of assisted accommodation.


The types of accommodation are different as for quality and forms; and different are the
expectations and plans.


                                                                                                                 45
Inside the flat was new, completely refurbished, two rooms and a bathroom. It was furnished for the
essential. Of course, I added some more things... I have personalised the interior (...) It is well equipped, the
only things missing are a house-phone and the link with TV aerial (...) I am content... The relationships with
people here and shopkeepers are good...

Then I went to live in a flat together with other three persons: a teacher, a cook and another worker. I found
it by means of an advertisement in a newspaper for second-hand items. It is a two rooms in an old building,
there is a kitchen with everything, a bedroom, a shower and bathroom inside and WC outside. It‟s a sort of
residential hotel, I pay weekly 150,000 (78 euro) all included, they also do general cleaning and make bed
(...) No, no contract (...) Now I want the big change, a home for myself, where to take my son...

For the future, when my wife will work, we would like to buy a home, money for rent is lost money. It will
be hard, but feasible.

The flat belongs to me: I pay 1,040,000 liras (537 euro) for instalment, for a 20 years mortgage. The price
was 140 millions liras (72,300 euro).

It‟s a single room, quite small... I got the furniture from the local parish church, once a week they also give
me food and dinner... It is an old building, the flat needs various works, I have not the money for that. For
the moment I have only white-washed.. The floor also needs remaking... Plants are old, the electric plant has
wire exposed... As soon as I‟ll have money I hope to be able to install a hot water plant... there is no hot
water, to wash myself I must heat water or go to the public showers at the railway station... It is OK, I feel at
ease... it‟s a quiet place...

A public housing flat, two rooms and a very small kitchen and a small bathroom; for me it‟s OK, even if
these houses are very old, a bit noisy, no elevator... But it‟s comfortable... When I first came I kissed the
ground and gave thanks to God.


The scarcity of criticism or expressions of dissatisfaction may be surprising, especially if the
poor quality of a certain amount of this accommodation is considered (mostly belonging to
the public housing stock). They are generally small apartments and often of modest or poor
quality. In most cases is not expressed as being a big problem, either because there is the
intention to move to a better accommodation or because the “low level equilibrium” that is
typical of many poverty syndromes also applies to housing.

Of course this does not mean that the interviewees are indifferent to the quality of their
accommodation. The traits of dissatisfaction most commonly expressed regard the size of the
flats. No significant problems were found, however, with the outside environment, with
neighbours or the district: on the other hand the housing values had been invested by our
interviewees basically in the accommodation itself rather than in the district. Moreover the
relation to the city follows for many a “selective” model, not centred on the local area.


Additional problems regard general difficulties implied by reintegration, it may be difficult
“to make his dwelling a home ”: difficulties with managing their own domestic life (doing
the shopping, etc.) after years of life on the streets or in institutions etc.
Living in a flat is a good thing - you don‟t sleep on a bench any more, but you must learn to manage
yourself, to do the shopping, to think to money to arrive at the end of the month: it is difficult after ten
years... Going into a home also means this.
                                                                                                              46
Given the particular protection situation enjoyed by most interviewees, housing costs are not
a big problem: either because of the low rent paid or because of the assistance and facilities
they enjoy for payment. Notwithstanding, housing costs take - as it is obvious at this level of
resources - a big share of the income of our interviewees. The possibility of counting on
social housing, in the future on a public housing flat, represents for most of them the only
housing opportunity compatible with their resources.
(Transitional accommodation) I get 1,800,000 (930 euro) monthly, which means 1,400,000 if you consider
the deductions. I can manage it, we pay 500,000 monthly in two, the utility costs is 300,000.
(Transitional accommodation) Now I pay 250,000 liras (130 euro) monthly, 250.000 liras for utility costs
every other month... Never late with paying rent. I keep to be on the dot. In any case, if you are not able to
pay immediately, they are very tolerant.

(Social housing) The rent is 300,000 (155 euro) monthly, all included. Our income is sufficient, we arrive
to 3 million liras and more, it would be sufficient for a rent of 700,000.

(Tenant in public housing) The rent is 250,000 (130 euro). I can cover the expenses, I also have some
additional work.
(Tenant in public housing) It is 114.000 (59 euro) monthly, to which I have to add the costs for electricity
etc.
(Tenant in public housing) 350,000 (181 euro) every three months, and 100,000 for other costs; my income
is very low, 600.000 (310 euro), but I can pay.

(Private sector) 900,000 (465 euro) monthly, including other costs. I am the only worker in my family, we
get off: my salary is 1,000,800 liras

The instalments (1,040,000 monthly: 537 euro) are directly taken from the wage packet, which is a little
more than 1,7 millions (878 euro), I am quite at ease from this point of view, I can live with 700,000 liras.

I am on the waiting list for public housing: the costs will be around 120,000 (62 euro) monthly, less than the
flat in which I am now.

The costs will not be very high. In public housing the rent is proportional to income.


While housing is always important in the integration process, its role nevertheless varies. The
relationship between the two dimensions - housing and “social relations”, and the importance
given to each varies according to the figures and the histories. For the “no abode” - for
people with histories of extreme marginalisation - accommodation is more properly an
ingredient of the social reintegration process. For them housing is one resource on the path to
reintegration in a more complex tangle of problems and the search for solutions or
improvements uses accommodation as a place for attaining or experiencing autonomy. For
those persons characterised more by poverty syndromes, however, the housing is valued in
itself as an answer to a specific need or for the economic significance that low rent housing
represents.




                                                                                                           47
13. None of our interviewees were willing to accept special regimes or types of housing (e.g.
lodging house style accommodation) as an answer to their housing problems. Some
interviewees considered accommodation other than normal/ordinary housing as positive, or
acceptable, as transition accommodation, either in the form of communal lodging or in the
form of normal type housing but with special status as with sheltered/transitional housing.

On the other hand our research does not allow us to deny the plausibility of special forms for
a certain number of situations, for persons who do not fit into the dominant/ordinary model
of resettlement. It is in fact possible that the rejection of special solutions is a result of how
our cases were selected (our sample did not include the possible minority of homeless people
in need of other forms of accommodation than ordinary permanent housing). Some of the
interviewees - those defined as “poverty syndromes” and immigrants - simply had none of
the problems that commonly justify recourse to special solutions. In other cases the
preference for ordinary life - “job, family and own flat” - is the result of personal life
histories that have developed positively and in which special forms of housing are seen as
therapeutic or supervisory and a return to these would now be inconceivable for them.

There were a few cases among the more elderly for which a hostel or a room in a boarding
house might be acceptable. The younger persons were decidedly against any hypothesis of
this type (“a boarding house ? It would be like being homeless again”): the accent is placed
on the importance of having a proper home (“a home where you can watch television as long
as you want”). Even for those who judged the experience of transitional accommodation
positively the qualitative quantum leap is perceived above all as going to live completely
independently, both with regard to sharing with others and as concerned the type of contract.


In our case the question mark over the meaning of “normal” when referring to
permanent/ordinary housing involves the meaning of transitional accommodation: temporary
by definition, without any rent contract, normal as far as the type of housing is concerned and
the relative independence enjoyed by the occupant. Contrary to what was hypothesised, none
of our interviewees settled permanently in this situation. Yet both the positive functions and
the drawbacks of this type of accommodation are very clear (e.g. the lack of a rent contract
means insecurity, but also flexibility with payments, etc.).

Other problems that can be treated in policy terms arise from the fact that most of the current
and future accommodation is public sector with problems of access, quality... Against the
advantage of very low cost, in these cases public sector housing means poor quality and at
times very poor: if the housing is assigned on the basis of regulations governing “social
cases” they are often the worst housing units in the public sector stock.

Finally, our histories give evidence to the criticality of problems of access to housing, both in
the private and the public sector. On this aspect, much may be done on one side by
innovating in the norms and practices of public housing agencies, on the other by
strengthening the role of the new private-welfare agencies which have innovated in this area
of problems (mediation on the market etc.)
                                                                                               48
I cannot get a public house, because I have non handicap or special hardship. I hope to be helped by Scarp
de Tenis, here we know each other...

I hoped to find a rental flat. But I discovered that it is very difficult. On the newspaper it seems that with
700-800,000 liras (360-410 euro) you can easily find a two-room flat. As a matter of fact, even if you are
able to pay... To find a flat is difficult in general. For a foreigner it is even more difficult. People doesn‟t
trust. And you don‟t have references. Always they require references, but who can give me references? It
was through the Farsi Prossimo co-operative that we found a flat, they gave us the references.




4. Experiences with support provided and needed

14. What interpretation and assessment can be made of the social services that our
interviewees have received? What interpretation and assessment do they themselves make of
this support?

As has been said, for all interviewees reintegration paths were based - to varying degrees -
on being able to count on both material and personal support. The importance of the personal
support dimension is clearer for those with long or extreme histories of marginalisation and
whose reintegration was achieved through a “individual plan”. The individual plan is itself a
methodology that relies heavily on the quality of personal relationships in the help given.
The importance of a personal dimension, however, involves much more than the system of
services and structured assistance: it even goes as far as to assign a role of help/support to
the many informal relations the city (and the street itself) is able to offer. The importance of
the informal/potential supply was generally agreed on by our interviewees as a whole. For
these people, however, this “diffusive” appreciation of relationship resources seems to
indicate a particularly deep need for personal relationships and communication.

At the railway station I used to sleep in a small house which a station-master had given to us, to four of us,
he gave rugs and pillows of the trains. It was a lift, a small house made of concrete, with a lift out of use.


For these persons too, being able to count on the availability of work and housing was vital
to their reintegration. The importance of material support is more obvious in cases
characterised by poverty syndromes: more adequate job/economic and housing opportunities
would in their case have prevented the drift into street homelessness and at a subsequent
stage their reintegration was heavily conditioned by the ability to gain access to these
resources. It is important to remember, however, that for these persons too, the help of
personal relationships was and is essential even in the absence of a intense individual
reintegration plan.

As was mentioned, the personal dimension of help also translates into the possibility of
exploiting multiple resources offered by the many informal relations that the city is able to
offer over and beyond organised services.
                                                                                                             49
Furthermore, the importance attributed to the personal relationship dimension has a strong
effect on how services are assessed. In services culture also, awareness of this lies at the
basis of “listening” methodologies, but at this level judgements on organisations based
around listening vary. Those characterised predominantly by histories of poverty are -
understandably - critical: “all they want to do is hear your story, but they don‟t give you any
help”.


15. How are the different types of support provided in the public and private sector system
(organisation) and what practices are employed? Our interviewees had great experience of
this. They all had contacts of help with a large number of services and operators. Their
judgement was on whole positive for most services. Critical, some radically so, opinions
were reserved above all for certain residential “community” type institutions (e.g. those
specialising in the treatment of drug addicts), and for certain services (both public and
private) that provide assistance only or only emergency support.

Basically two elements are perceived negatively: the purely emergency approach
unconnected with other types of help and therefore seen as inappropriate for processes of
improvement, and the lack of personalisation/flexibility in the facilities and the supply of
services. Both these elements reveal continuity with a traditional welfare approach, a
persistent failure to acknowledge the many new practices introduced in services in recent
years.


16. Judgements of public dormitories were more detailed. (As has been said, this traditional
institution has seen some changes in recent years making them more appropriate to the new
demand and trying to improve their ability to trigger processes of escape from
marginalisation). On the one hand many interviewees acknowledged the positive functions of
orientation, secretarial service, and assistance in gaining access to various public services. On
the other hand there were complaints of the inconvenience of its collective nature (“people
who create disturbance”, etc.) and above all the passive/traditional welfare character: the fact
that not only does it not help but can even aggravate situations of marginalisation.

“People regress... The worker did not help me, he always acted passively and never encouraged any change
in me. They don‟t realise that a situation of extreme hardship can easily lead a person into crime... I couldn‟t
understand why that place absolutely had to be a place to avoid, why proposals couldn‟t be made for
animation or even for small jobs”.


Experience of public dormitories - possessed by almost all those interviewed - was assessed
by comparison with/against other collective institutions and namely with the “community”
accommodation that constitutes the first stage in an individual reintegration plan. On this
basis dormitories may seem to be places that allow greater freedom than transitional hostels
of a “community” type, but they also fail to provide support for reintegration paths, given the
absence of plans and of programmed development for guests.

                                                                                                             50
You are better off in a dormitory, if you are lucky with your room... Once you have paid 3,000 lire for the
night and money for dinner nobody bothers you.... You choose your own personal relations in the
dormitory... The dormitory is a different type of ghetto.... there is more personal freedom... Although nobody
makes a plan for you... The workers can‟t manage it.

The experience with the dormitory was traumatic, anyway - given the type of people you find there - I don‟t
think one could do better, what they do is much. I washed myself there, but for the bathroom I used to go
out, often I went to the public library - it was there that I saw Scarp de Tenis for the first time, and I
contacted them.

In this same perspective are the proposals to improve it: setting up services and opportunities
to make the dormitory more “habitable” and to develop social support dimensions and
factors that might trigger processes of personal improvement.



5. Potential and limitations of “individual reintegration plans”


17. Five of our interviewees had been involved in some way in “individual reintegration
plans”. One withdrew during the first stage, after four months of residence. Of those who
stayed the course, three gave a very positive judgement, and one expressed criticism of one
aspect, the “community” accommodation in the first phase.

IRPs, their objectives and the structures and services supporting them, are described by a
publication of Cena dell‟Amicizia as follows.

“[In the „reception centre‟] the guest is admitted on the basis of a plan previously agreed and according to
the experience of the person in order to give a positive answer to its primary problems.
The plan is agreed with the guest and its evolution is followed, step by step, by the Social service and the
Housing Committee of CdA, on the basis of weekly interviews. The limited number of guests allows the
personalisation of contacts with social workers [...] A constant contact between the workers and the guest is
a necessary condition for building a meaningful relationship and for approaching the problems of the guest
in a respectful way, and the guest will be able to contribute to his personal evolution and become responsible
of the improvement of his life.
Admission is based on a series of interviews and crossed assessments, and according to co-operation with
other services in the local community... After admission and a short period of “acclimatisation”, 15 days, the
social service invites the guest to interviews (twice a week), in which the progress of the plan is assessed and
a first, tentative, definition of the length of stay in the Centre is defined.
The Centre provides hospitality in two-beds rooms, dinner and breakfast, laundry etc.; and a social service
which works in strict co-operation with external agencies, public and private sector, such as the Office for
young persons of the Municipality, Centres for mental health, day centres, services for alcohol addicted etc.
Moreover it is in charge of periodic assessment - on the basis of interviews - of personal involvement of the
guests in the realisation of their plans.


According to the reconstruction of some of the interviewees:


                                                                                                             51
Then I arrived here, where there are individual plans adapted to individual needs - everyone has his own
history, and then has his doctor, his social workers. The first thing they did for me was about alcohol. For a
period I had several meetings with personnel at NOA, they are specialised on this problem... There I started
meetings with the psychologist, the doctor, the social worker... I followed this road. I came here, then went
away, staying on the streets for two weeks. Then I came back... Later I joined a welfare co-operative, a
service of this association where you can follow an apprenticeship, paid by the municipality... Little by little
I managed to take that life perspective, with some difficulty... It was a real plan. But a long period, and in the
meanwhile people around you changed... Now I am at the end of the path, now I am ready to re-take a
normal life.

Sure, when I arrived, when they explained to me all the rules I was not very happy. Then I took it easy and
managed it. I said: they put me up, they give me a bed and I try to keep to the rules, the schedule, the
cleaning. I stayed in the community for three years. They helped me in finding a job (...). Now I work in a
hospital.... There you are followed for bureaucratic matters, for residence, for sanitary problems there is a
doctor... I had difficult problems, it also happened that I thought to go away… Then I regained self-
confidence... After three years, this accommodation was too strict for me: thus they proposed this flat.


On the whole, the assessment of those involved and the “objective” reconstruction in
interviews confirmed that the formula had achieved its objectives of reintegration and
empowerment that underlie this approach (“the support services as a means to strengthen the
existing competencies and resources of former homeless persons). Criticisms and proposals
for improvement - apart from what will be said on the organisation of the first phase -
concerned the timing and the development of the plan.


I must thank very much the work they did with me. It was very hard but now I thank them. Sometimes the
methods are hard … if you fail they send you away… in a few occasions I risked. In many places they don‟t
offer you a plan.... I am very happy about how my history has evolved. Perhaps the path is too long, three
years is too much.

I have experience of many communities.... they keep you there for years and don‟t give you anything. Now I
feel well, even if there are difficult moments … With this experience I have totally changed.

You don‟t know when the plan will end. The timing is not known with certainty.... The fact that the
progression provided by the plan is slow, this is appropriate, if you hasten you don‟t arrive...

The times spent waiting in the reintegration plan are long, at times extremely and unjustifiably long. This is
explained in some way by the lack of confidence (justifiable?) that people have of placing people who have
begun an integration plan in accommodation and work that are normal from all points of view.


18. Some preliminary distinctions must however be made on what is meant by the word
“plan” in order to assess the sense and the effectiveness of this formula. In its broad sense, a
reintegration plan regards all reintegration/rehousing cases and in any case combining - as
has been said - personal support, support with access to public sector services and the
provision of “material” support. The individual reintegration plans we are talking about
combine in turn support for access to services and material resources with personal
supervision to reconstruct the motivations and the capabilities required to lead an
independent life. This aspect obviously only has any sense for the more extreme cases, more
obviously for people who have suffered processes of “personality destructuring”, etc.
                                                                                                               52
19. Two problems emerged over this characteristic of the programme. The first is the
relationship between IRP‟s and therapy in cases of mental illness, drug addiction or
alcoholism. The two types of action are similar and may be based on the same philosophy:
taking on the multiple problems of the client, focusing on helping to reconstruct motivations,
life plans, relations, and so on - as well as work capabilities etc. This raises many questions:
can a good therapy plan be considered equivalent to these IRP‟s and can an IRP be an
alternative to a community for treating drug addiction, etc. ?


A second problem concerns the heavily structured/regulated nature of the initial phase of the
reintegration plan, which in most approaches is felt essential to the start of the personal
“reconstruction” which should lead to autonomy (particularly in cases of alcoholism,
addiction, etc.). There is a strict relationship, in these approaches to reintegration, between
the severity of the restrictions at the beginning of the path and the strong accent on personal
autonomy/responsibility as an objective (this is recognised by the persons involved: “I am in
total autonomy, the psychologists wants that we face our problems”).


I was in that structure for a year, instead of two-three months. On the whole I was not well, even if the place
was clean and well run... I felt a little tight, I was used to live in a flat, and also because this is a situation of
semi-liberty... there are also persons which stay there as an alternative to the prison... This as far as internal
rules, relations with the workers, the timetables are concerned. I felt threatened… It is like you should pay
for crimes that you have not committed.


I stayed there for four months, then I went away... I didn‟t like those strict rules, I don‟t want to judge them,
they have their good reasons, but I can‟t accept this; they check your bag because they are afraid for wine, I
felt in a prison, there is the tampon check to see if you had drunk - I didn‟t do it...

In part these criticisms arise from the already mentioned lack of flexibility of the institutions
and the reintegration plans themselves in relation to the different requirements of different
individuals. What is of interest here is the uncertainty - the ambiguity - that the severity of
the conditions can induce in motivating and giving meaning to the reintegration plan. The
severity of the treatment may be seen as a filter for access to reintegration schemes.
Remaining in a place characterised by severe and restrictive regulations means recognising
that there are good prospects for future development in that place. From this viewpoint an
important problem is the completeness of the information: through which channels does one
form the idea that you can or cannot trust a service... In this sense acceptance of the rules of
the institution occurs on the basis of an assessment of the opportunities. But this may also
involve submitting to the rules in order to “use” the institution.

It is the price I paid to get a home - without the promise of housing I would have left.


Naturally a distinction must be made between the interpretation (ours and our interviewees)
of the community structure prescribed for the first phase and the individual reintegration plan
                                                                                                                   53
as a whole. The same criticisms of the institution may not involve failure to recognise the
value of a structured plan (and neither the advantages that the relative types of
accommodation may provide). What seems to be in question was the specific applicability,
which again brings up the question of the different meanings that the word “plan” can have
in the sense of a re-socialisation programme in different situations. In effect the two
interviewees who were in this institution longest - and who essentially judged it positively -
both had particularly difficult case histories with considerable need for re-socialisation, care
and the management of personal problems. It is interesting that the persons with extreme
marginalisation histories are most ready to recognise the value of restrictions and of the
severity of the rules in the first phase of the process. And the person who left the institution
and dropped out of the reintegration plan had no problems of this type.

I went away, I could not stand it any more, it was not suitable for me. For going out with my daughter we
had to agree… moreover it was not compatible with my job... As a matter of fact, I did not need a plan... I
did not understand what the plan was... what I wanted was a job and a flat.


Nevertheless the need remains to separate the idea of an “IRP” from that of a heavily
regulated community institution: the sense of the criticisms reported is that in the initial
phase an individual reintegration plan could use formulas and even community formulas, but
which allow residents greater independence...



6. Current support: requirements and context

20. What support do people who have followed these reintegration programmes now need ?
And what role is/has been played by the broader context in supporting reintegration?

None of these reintegration plans would have been possible without the range of facilities
and services provided by the city, and for the most part current equilibriums are dependent
on this range of assistance: general and specialised public services (e.g. mental health
services), private sector social work services, those of the Roman Catholic Church in
particular, both those targeted directly at reintegration and those which provide “context“
support (welfare, orientation, job opportunities, finding a home etc.) necessary for
reintegration. Reintegration institutions and initiatives must also be able to count on this
provision in order to perform their work.


21. Take as a whole interviewees judged the provision of health and social services
positively: it was considered sufficiently rich and varied, even if the provision could be
increased. If anything there is a problem of access and utilisation capacity that concerns these
services as is found in general with the entire system of individually accessed services. One
of the criticisms concerns the difficulty in understanding the administrative mechanisms of
access. The sensation that results is of discretion in provision: “you do not understand if you
have a right to something or if it is given out of generosity“. With a higher level of education
                                                                                                        54
access to services may be simpler and they can be used more incisively; it is easier to
understand how the mechanisms function. A further critical element is identified in the fact
that services are generally targeted at specific types of person with specific problems. This
makes it particularly difficult for people who do not fit into one of these specific categories
to gain access to services.

The supply I have found in the local community seems to me decidedly sufficient... I have been able to take
advantage from the services which are in the community.

Certainly the services have helped me a lot... They are not much individualised. There are interviews, but
there is a lot of people.

I can‟t have support from public agencies, as I haven‟t such big problems as drug etc. - they think “he is
young, he can find a job”; also: “you can ask your family, which is well off, there is a law which provides
for that possibility”.

Through my psychiatrist I have recovered. Among the 500 guests of the dormitory there are many which
would need it, but they don‟t go, they could recover or limit their disease, on the contrary they let themselves
go.

Finally, from the situation of the interviewees, there appears to be a need for connections
between the different services, as a condition for access and rational use of the services
themselves. Such connections could be achieved by a network approach, co-ordination of
initiatives, orientation and information services, etc. Positive assessments of Caritas action
result in part from the important role played in this respect by its services and initiatives.


As has been said, maintenance of current levels of equilibrium also depends - for almost all
the interviewees - on support from the welfare system in so far as it provides housing,
benefits and pensions and other monetary assistance. We have already mentioned the
essential role played by the possibility of access to “protected” jobs and by access to very
low rents such as those in public sector social housing and by private welfare schemes.


21. Most of the criticisms made by interviewees concerns these aspects, particularly financial
assistance. In general they maintain themselves by putting together pieces of income from
different sources (welfare and other), but this bricolage is not always sufficient to prevent
states of extreme poverty. For the elderly persons above all, income obtained from work is
not sufficient. The need for adequate and automatic monetary benefits - a “minimum
income” measure, not dependent that is on the discretion of the authorities - was explicitly
mentioned by some of the elderly interviewees.

When you are an elderly man, what can you do? at 68 I must run up and down, with heart problems... I can
take only small jobs... My only resource is Scarp de Tenis - without this journal what could we do? why
they don‟t help us? No assistance, they even save on the medicines... Why should I resort to a lawyer to get
assistance: if they give me a flat, they perfectly know what my economic situation is... On the contrary they
pretend not to notice: we are going to die, we don‟t exist for them...


                                                                                                             55
Conclusions

1. All the persons interviewed had achieved a certain degree of autonomy (at different levels,
but in any case sufficient to live in a house) and most still have problems (with elements of
precariousness that are variable and of differing importance). Living in normal housing
accommodation does not mean itself autonomy or “success”: yet the widespread satisfaction
for the new accommodation is related with the sense of autonomy, with the link they
perceive between the new accommodation and the autonomy they have achieved. Most are
happy to stay in their new home or of the new housing perspective they have. In some way,
the importance of housing is seen as something obvious. In most cases, there are no visible
problems referred to housing. This positiveness of the new housing situation makes it
difficult to find out the role that the housing dimension has played/plays in the reintegration
process.



2. In a sense, these are all success stories. Life is better than before for all of them, and if
they still need social support, it is usually circumscribed and not so intense.

Our cases do not include persons which have “abandoned their tenancy“. But the distinction
between success and failure cases seems questionable: the actual cases rather support the
possibility of thinking in terms of a continuum between the two. It is extremely difficult
(inappropriate?) to represent the various situations in terms of success/failure. It is possible,
however, to illustrate the complexity of individual processes. Rather than speaking in terms
of more/less reintegration, it seems appropriate to try to get from the research the various
reintegration experiences, and their experience and perception of what their life is.


3. On this basis, some great distinctions are possible - to characterise marginalisation case
histories and reintegration processes and the “equilibriums” achieved - that are crucial to
assess the need for support and the efficacy of services and supports. The distinction are
based on the severity (and the dynamics) of the history of marginalisation, the complexity
(multidimensional vs. sectoral) of the problem, the basic problems which characterise
marginalisation case histories and determine the present equilibrium ("poverty syndromes"
vs. situation heavily or predominantly determined by pathologies) etc. The different figures
and histories require different types of policies and programmes. The notion itself of
(re)insertion assumes different meanings in the different cases. The diversity of profiles and
case histories implies that intervention in favour of these persons should be able to recognise
and work out this diversity: in this area standardised models are bound to fall.


                                                                                              56
At least two criteria appear to be relevant in order to build appropriate interventions and
policies: the axis multidimensional vs. sectoral; and the different ways of obtaining
integration in the case of multidimensional approaches. “Integration” may be intended (a) in
a more or less “strict” sense, (b) as including more or less heavy “dosage” of personal
support. “Individual reintegration plans” imply (in principle) “strict” integration and much
personal support: which seems reasonable for (many) marginalized homeless persons. For
many homeless persons, however, even if some “integration” may still be required, this is not
so strict, and in many cases is more aimed at combining different forms of material support
(cheap housing, job, income etc.) or specific forms of care.


The effectiveness of the projects analysed may be assessed from this point of view. The cases
selected with Cena dell‟Amicizia and the cases selected with the Caritas network are
different. As a whole, the actions for reintegration they have developed appear highly
appropriate, and the difference in their approaches may be referred to different needs of the
various figures of homelessness.

Immigrants, as expected, constitute a case apart. The case histories of the immigrants we
interviewed are not “histories of homelessness”, except in the sense that the persons had
passed quite a long period of their lives - the initial period immediately after their arrival in
Italy - in reception centres and dormitories. In effect their problems are above all those
typical of the insecurity characteristic of the initial phase of a migration case history, the
difficulties with the first job and accommodation, often aggravated (as in our cases) by the
lack of a stay permit. Later, better work and legalisation of their position triggers a process of
integration that makes them autonomous. During the homelessness phase these are typical
cases for which a plan in the strong sense of the word is not necessary, but rather where
specific assistance with housing and work is called for.

The difference between Italians and foreigners as regards homelessness and the policy
implications of this difference is object of debate in Italy.
The realisation that immigrant homelessness is on the rise increased worries over the adequacy of integration
policies and to a greater extent over general housing policies. It also led to greater consideration of the
meaning of homelessness for these groups and to a sharper focus on the interaction between housing
exclusion and social marginalisation. These two complementary aspects deserve attention. On the one hand
the socially emarginated and homeless immigrant - the “no abode” immigrant - seems to have a specific
physiognomy. The case histories of immigrants as regards homelessness and marginalisation are quite
different from those of the local population and housing exclusion plays an important role in these. While for
Italians, the paths to marginalisation today that start with the loss of a home are not predominant, for
immigrants paths to marginalisation often start with housing exclusion. Lack of accommodation which
persists can accelerate the drift into social exclusion.

On the other hand there is a high probability of immigrants suffering housing exclusion without serious
elements of marginalisation occurring and an even higher probability of them suffering housing exclusion
without those features of destructuring that characterises many no abode: they are simply poor people
without a home. For them the lack of housing may be nothing more than a stage on the road to integration in
society. Put in other words, the state of homelessness for immigrants may have totally different meanings. It
may be an initial period of precariousness common to many immigration stories or it may be the outcome of

                                                                                                           57
a process of marginalisation, exclusion that has become chronic indicating the failure of an immigration
project (Tosi 2001b).


The case of immigrants - so decidedly different as to make the meaning of their
homelessness perhaps incomparable with the Italian - but also the general variety of figures
and histories of homelessness - bring attention to the limitations of the social services and
welfare system and put a question-mark on the local social construction of the problem. The
construction of the problem of the homeless in Italy - centred on the figure of the „no abode‟,
i.e. the socially marginalised homeless which are characterised by multiple handicaps and by
traits of desocialisation - leads to a primary focus on one category of figures and problems:
situations of particular gravity and advanced stages in the processes of marginalisation. Even
if the growing attention to these problems must be welcomed positively, note must also be
made of the risks of this construction, particularly the underestimation of the housing
dimension in defining the “no abode” problem; and the risk of neglecting housing exclusion
when it is not accompanied by strong traits of social marginalisation. This is the case for
many foreign immigrants, but also for persons characterised by “poverty syndromes”. In
general: there is scarce recognition of the situations of sectoral needs/poverty, and of
situations which require “weak” intervention - or material support -, in favour of
strong/integrated (multidimensional) interventions or intervention with strong dosage of
social/social work support.


4. The housing dimension was found to be a basic ingredient of the social reintegration
process, even if with different meanings and roles. The experience of interviewees confirmed
that the good reasons for rehousing in normal housing are largely related to the power of
“normality” and of the “home” experience (as something distinct/different from just being
housed). A home is “normality”. For the majority, the positiveness was connected with
creating that system of values that is connected with home: comfort, privacy, freedom and
independence - the latter being a particularly meaningful value for many of those interviewed
who had a history of wandering and repeated institutionalisation and who had acquired a
home by means of a plan which had in turn meant acquiring independence.

This data - the strong desire of getting a home, its identification with normality - may be an
important reason against the underestimation of the importance of the housing dimension for
the “no abode”: certainly it requires to be understood, in most cases, within a
multidimensional frame, but recognising the crucial role of the home experience as a basis
for integration and reintegration.

It is important not to overlook the functional/economic value of housing: an obvious fact for
people with precarious resources which obviously does not exclude an affective investment,
but which can be decisive in determining the meaning of the relationship with the
accommodation. For some interviewees with a history of poverty, housing is appreciated
more as satisfying a necessity or for the low cost which is only possible in these types of
assisted accommodation.

                                                                                                     58
The discourse on the homeless as persons “incapable of independent living“ has been a
powerful basis of the exclusion of homeless from “normal” housing solutions (Busch-
Geertsema 2000a). None of our interviewees were willing to accept special regimes or types
of housing as an answer to their housing problems. Some interviewees considered
accommodation other than normal/ordinary housing as positive, or acceptable, as transition
accommodation, either in the form of communal lodging or in the form of normal type
housing but with “special” status as with sheltered/transitional housing. On the other hand
our research does not allow us to deny the plausibility of special forms for a certain number
of situations, for persons who do not fit into the dominant/ordinary model of resettlement. It
is in fact possible that the rejection of special solutions is a result of how our cases were
selected. Some of the interviewees - those defined as “poverty syndromes” and immigrants -
simply had none of the problems that commonly justify recourse to special solutions. In other
cases the preference for ordinary life is the result of personal life histories that have
developed positively and in which special forms of housing are seen as therapeutic or
supervisory and a return to these would now be inconceivable for them.



5. The interventions/programmes which made these reintegration histories possible are a
clear expression of the new culture of social services, of the trend towards more
individualised and “integrated” forms of assistance.

“The loss of housing is in fact the outcome of a long process of social marginalisation and life “on the road”
is itself characterised as a process of progressive deterioration of resources and capabilities. In order to
tackle the complexity and multidimensional nature of the hardship these persons suffer, integrated action
(health, psychological and personal relations, financial, training, housing) must be formulated that is not
limited to ensuring physical survival, but which also offers the chance to set out on a reintegration path. In
other words, it is necessary to adopt a “global” approach to social exclusion”. “An “integrated” approach is
defined as one that considers the multi-dimensional character of the condition of the no abode and which
seeks therefore to care for a person as a whole” (Commissione 2001).

However, it must be underlined that the opportunities for reintegration are made from two
types of resources, equally important: reintegration plans and the welfare resources and
services provided by the context.
As regards “plans”, some distinctions must be made between the various versions,
particularly in order to assess the sense and the effectiveness of what in this report has been
termed “individual reintegration plan” as compared with other forms of “plan”. In its broad
sense, a reintegration plan regards all reintegration/rehousing cases and in any case
combining - as has been said - personal support, support with access to public sector services
and the provision of “material” support. The individual reintegration plans combine in turn
support for access to services and material resources with personal supervision to reconstruct
the motivations and the capabilities required to lead an independent life. This aspect
obviously only has any sense for the more extreme cases.

For people in other situations it might be more rational to assist by providing help on specific
points such as work, housing, etc. In some cases, intervention may be (relatively) sectoral,
                                                                                                           59
limited to a single area. Although the general philosophy is always of an integrated approach,
intervention may start from or centre on a particular dimension of integration, on the supply
or conservation of housing for example.

Finally, in presence of a growing popularity of the ideology of integrated/multidimensional
action, it is necessary to remind once again the legitimacy and value of “sectoral”
intervention: “integrated” action (in its proper/strong meaning) cannot be assumed as the
general criterion for social action and policy.



6. On the whole, the assessment of those involved and the “objective” reconstruction in
interviews confirmed that the individual reintegration plan formula had achieved its
objectives of reintegration and empowerment that underlie this approach. In our sample there
are a few cases in which IRP has enabled the achievement of levels of autonomy and quality
of life - and of housing autonomy - which appear incredible if we consider the heaviness of
the marginalisation histories behind them. In these cases we can hardly imagine success
without strong reintegration plans such as IRP. In these cases criticisms from the
interviewees and proposals for improvement concerned the timing and the development of
the plan.

More severe criticisms regard the degree of control exercised over persons undertaking a
reintegration plan, and specifically the heavily structured/regulated nature of the initial phase
of the reintegration plan. Here the typical, structural antinomy of reintegration comes out -
between personal independence and the construction of a negotiated plan, between autonomy
as an objective and control as a mean to reach that objective: an antinomy that some
interviewees make clear through the comparison between this type of plans and living in the
public dormitory (“The dormitory is a different type of ghetto:.... there is more personal
freedom... Should they provide a plan for you, it would be better [than staying in
“community” transitional hostels]... But the workers can‟t manage it”).


These criticisms invite more discussion on the efficacy criteria and applicability of this
formula. As already said, the value of a strongly structured community may apply to persons
affected by strong/advanced marginalisation/de-socialisation processes - and more clearly in
the case of personal destructuring. Our interviewees seem perfectly conscious of the
applicability criteria from this point of view. The same criticisms may not involve failure to
recognise the value of a structured plan (and neither the advantages that the relative types of
accommodation may provide).

Naturally a distinction must be made between the interpretation of the community structure
prescribed for the first phase and the “individual reintegration plan” as a whole. Nevertheless
the need remains to rethink the point and the possibility that the idea of an individual
reintegration plan (and of relatively long periods of stay in special regimes), be separated
from that of a heavily regulated community institution: the sense of the criticisms reported is
                                                                                              60
that in the initial phase an individual reintegration plan could use formulas and even
community formulas, but which allow residents greater independence...

(Moreover, the possible ambiguity of the processes induced remains a critical point. “If the
help that these services provides is indispensable to the establishment of a virtuous circle that
lifts them out of the marginalisation into which they have fallen, the danger is that these
persons, precisely because they are more fragile, are felt incapable of becoming autonomous
and are therefore authorised, indirectly and at times unconsciously, to become dependent on
the services provided” (Tosi, Ranci, Kazepov 1998).



7. The “relativisation” of the idea of autonomy and reintegration is and essential point of
these methodologies. According to many services, relative autonomy/reintegration may be an
appropriate outcome for persons affected by strong marginalisation processes, or it may be a
realistic aim. For the “no abode”, “independence” or “autonomy” does not always coincide
with full autonomy. Autonomy and reintegration are terms that must be considered as
relative, acknowledging the positive nature of relative autonomy and of „precarious‟ or
„partial‟ reintegration. For many of the no abode partial reintegration may be an appreciable
objective.


The risks of this approach are evident: stabilisation in assisted forms of living, hindering
further steps towards autonomy etc. On one hand, the status of permanent semi-autonomy
that supported accommodation allows people to achieve undoubtedly constitutes a result
which considerably improves the quality of life of many persons and prevents them from
progressing towards full and irreversible homelessness. On the other hand, the permanent
nature of the status of semi-autonomy that supported accommodation allows people to
achieve risks to generate a situation of de facto dependence on the services which provides
the housing and welfare solution. With the lack of a precise time horizon on the intervention
there is a risk that the possibility of attaining more advanced stages of autonomy will not be
considered.

“Uses of supported accommodation for reintegration are ambivalent in themselves, precisely
because they move between (and combine) protection and a path to autonomy, and therefore
there is a constant risk of consolidating situations of dependence. On the other hand the
change in the approach to reintegration that has occurred in social work culture - the
recognition that relative autonomy/reintegration could be positive - has been simultaneously,
a retreat with respect to the more ambitious objectives of reintegration, a rethinking of
practice and ideology on the basis of failures, and also, however, a realistic recognition of the
different meanings that reintegration and autonomy must have for different cases in terms of
how compromised a person is along the path to exclusion, etc.” (Tosi, Ranci, Kazepov
1997).



                                                                                              61
As regards our cases, the situations of partial autonomy do not support the link that is often
claimed between protection and special forms of accommodation. Protection does not imply
any specific form of housing (special housing), it may also be provided with/in ordinary
housing, and much of the debate is precisely about the advantages/disadvantages of
combining protection with special vs. ordinary housing. And in no case for our interviewees
transitional accommodation has assumed the character of permanent accommodation/no
stabilisation..



8. Various reasons make it difficult to evaluate the outcomes of the reintegration
programmes. In part this difficulty is due to the difficulty in agreeing on a definition of a
positive outcome, a concept which covers a range that goes from mere non regression to
achievement of autonomy. (Another cause of difficulty concerning assessment is that once
people leave facilities the social services often lose contact with the people they have tried to
help). Of course, a “relativistic” approach to autonomy makes evaluation difficult: from this
viewpoint, a small step made on the road to socialisation may be considered a success. There
are no standard measures of success in this area and it is impossible to have any. One reason
is because the time periods involved are long term and often cyclical. In individual
reintegration plans, additional problems come from the idea that the success or failure of
individual cases can only be judged within the relationship between a case worker and
his/her client.

The strong emphasis placed on the “relationship” with social worker, sometimes the
“pedagogical” approach, may involve a series of risks: uncontrolled selection of users, wide
discretion in defining the chances of progression, and as a result, a precarious integration
which, could perpetuate vicious circles of dependency... But these are problems and risk
common to all social policies in this area and which largely go beyond the specific models of
intervention adopted, and which must to a large extent be controlled and solved at the level
of the system of services rather than that of the individual service. The same must be said for
the control of priorities and the systemic impact of the intervention - it regards the
functioning of the system as a whole.


9. Reintegration develops around the basic “integration vectors”: work - not only because of
the income it produces, but because of the system of relations and meanings in which it is
located - and social relationships. Seen at the level of process “agents” , these dimensions
indicate the dual nature of the help required to encourage integration: “institutions”
(organisations) and relations. Both are in any case a necessary condition for integration. In
one sense because the resources used are both “services” (units of supply presented, often
formally, as such) or help provided by the personal relations (informal); and in another
because even in the case of service provision, the personal relationship component has a
value based on principles of “reciprocity” (defined at times by comparison with experiences
of services in which this factor seems to be absent). The value of an individual reintegration
plan also lies in its combination of the two types of dimension, but this combination, less
heavily applied, occurs in every reintegration process.
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On this basis, the persons interviewed express criticisms towards some social services. Take
as a whole interviewees judged the provision of health and social services rather positively. If
anything there is a problem of access and utilisation capacity that concerns these services as
is found in general with the entire system of individually accessed services. One of the
criticisms concerns the difficulty in understanding the administrative mechanisms of access.
A further critical element is the fact that services are generally targeted at specific types of
person with specific problems. This makes it particularly difficult to get help for
reintegration for persons which are not affected by specific hardships (alcohol etc.) or
persons which do not fit into one of the specific categories provided to gain access to
services.


More critical, some radically so, opinions were reserved above all for certain residential
“community” type institutions (e.g. those specialising in the treatment of drug addicts), and
for certain welfare services (both public and private) that provide assistance only. Basically
two elements are perceived negatively: the purely emergency approach unconnected with
other types of help and therefore seen as inappropriate for processes of improvement, and the
lack of personalisation/flexibility in the facilities and the supply of services. Both these
elements reveal continuity with a traditional welfare approach, a persistent failure to
acknowledge the many new practices introduced in services in recent years.


10. The shift towards the reintegration philosophy and integrated/multidimensional models
of intervention has induced profound rethinking of the role and efficacy requirements of
traditional supply. Night shelters provided by the public sector have seen some changes in
recent years making them more appropriate to the new demand and trying to improve their
ability to trigger processes of escape from marginalisation. The research shows that further
development of this innovation would be important.

Many interviewees acknowledged the positive functions of orientation, secretarial service,
and assistance in gaining access to various public services. But there were complaints of the
inconvenience of its collective nature (“people who create disturbance”, etc.) and above all
the passive/traditional welfare character – which can even aggravate situations of
marginalisation.

On one side, dormitories may be seen as places that allow greater freedom than community
transitional hostels, on the other side seem unable to provide support for reintegration paths,
given the lack of casework plans and (in many cases) of programmed development for
guests. In this same perspective are the proposals to improve it: setting up services and
opportunities to make the dormitory more “habitable” and to develop social support
dimensions and factors that might trigger processes of personal improvement.

Along with action specifically targeted at homeless persons, work needs to be done to
integrate these persons in services targeted at the general population, according to the type of
need (social services, services for employment, health etc.). These services are a fundamental
                                                                                             63
resource for reintegration: homeless persons however are often penalised in this respect, they
may encounter difficulties in access and in taking advantage from these services - for
instance because of the distance between their needs and the “use codes” of the services (Gui
1995).

“This requires action to adapt and to educate these services above all on the subject of access. To give an
example, many persons of no abode do not have - or they have lost it in their time “on the road” - the
capacity and/or the willingness to conform to the “use codes” - the rules and regulations - of the social
services. They turn with more regularity to the private welfare centres where access is direct without
bureaucratic requirements and where a strong effort with relationship skills and to draw up a plan is not
required” (Commissione 2001).

Finally, from the situation of the interviewees, there appears to be a need for “connections”
between the different services, as a condition for access and rational use of the services
themselves. Given the multidimensional character of their demands, these persons also need
that some link be established between the various opportunities represented by services and
resources provided in the community. Such connections could be achieved by a network
approach, co-ordination of initiatives, orientation and information services, etc. Positive
assessments of Caritas initiatives result in part from the important role played in this respect
by its services and initiatives.


11. This analysis throws light on the necessary “external” conditions required for
reintegration projects to be effective:

(a) a local system which ensures the necessary integration and synergies with regard in
particular to relations between the public and voluntary sector. This is also an obvious
condition for a network approach, an essential part of the philosophy..

(b) a (national) welfare system that guarantees the necessary resources and finance with
regard in particular to the availability of a minimum income, relationships between welfare
and housing supply and the relationship between welfare and health service provision.

As for the first aspect, the local dimensions are essential ingredients of the assessment of the
effects of intervention from various points of view. In one sense an assessment must ask
questions about the systemic effects: how intervention covers the total demand for a
determined context, what type of selections are made, etc. In another sense it is a question of
understanding how relationships between actors and between actions act as a critical factor in
activating policies and intervention and in shaping their effectiveness. In yet another sense it
is a question of how the community or environmental (not individual) dimensions of the
problem are treated, etc. have no information for many of these dimensions.

One of the crucial conditions for the effectiveness of reintegration programmes concerns the
degree of integration of services provided in wider networks. There appears to be a need for
connections between the different services, as a condition for access and rational use of the
services themselves.
                                                                                                        64
These networks must include both reintegration and low threshold access services.
Reintegration policies must be considered in conjunction with those aimed at the mere
improvement of quality of life or at “damage reduction”. “Low threshold” intervention
becomes an indispensable part of a wider strategy if it is integrated in a network of services.
This also help to manage the risks of low threshold services - the maintenance of people in
conditions of marginalisation. Low threshold access may be seen as an indispensable
condition not for individual services, but for a network of services, to which everybody can
gain access and then there are the necessary selection filters to pass on to different more
specialised services.
“[The shift to integrated action] has stimulated social workers to look at access thresholds and requirements.
In the more innovative contexts, the service provision of shelters is in fact varied with some accommodation
provided directly with no access filter (short term stays, to meet primary needs for all types of user) and also
higher threshold accommodation with more defined access requirements (targeted at specific types of user,
subject to a reintegration casework plan, with rehabilitation objectives).

Our study found that there were still many difficulties encountered in combining or running side by side
rehabilitation and promotional work and low threshold action of satisfying primary needs, reducing damage
and establishing initial “relationships” with persons. This is the really crucial point for those who have to
formulate policies and plan initiatives to fight extreme poverty: how to ensure not just material care and
support, but also the chance for social reintegration through the gradual recovery of the capacity to be
autonomous. In the experience of some service and shelter providers run by the public sector in some cities
and by voluntary associations in others, making people who live on the road independent means making
them use their remaining personal resources through individual plans, social work support and integrated
action” (Commissione 2001).

In Italy, as has been said, the absence of guidelines in the legislation (the recent welfare reform law has,
however, started to trace some guidelines) has meant that local authorities - comunes above all - have
independently defined their own degree of cover and the range of services provided for these people. Instead
of placing value on the autonomy of the action taken by local public authorities to tackle very different
situations, this field has been abandoned to local initiatives, allowing geographical differences in the supply
and management of services for persons of no abode.

The new legislation on welfare may change the picture. So far, however, the picture that emerges from the
research (Commissione 2001) shows the co-existence in Italy of very heterogeneous models of intervention
at local level. There is a high level of differentiation both with regard to public and voluntary/private welfare
action. Naturally a comparison of these same contexts shows that they are very different from the viewpoint
of economic and social structure and from the demographic viewpoint. Nevertheless, local policy systems
and action to assist the no abode present a high degree of heterogeneity that can not be explained by the
distinction between large, medium and small towns and cities, nor by regional models of welfare. The
absence up until the passing of Law No. 328/2000, of guidelines in the legislation establishing minimum
standards of support across the country resulted in persons suffering serious marginalisation and extreme
poverty receiving very unequal treatment in different areas. The picture that therefore emerges shows the
fragmentation of social policies and the extreme variations in local voluntary initiatives. The differences
regard the degree to which needs are covered, the criteria of access to services and to accommodation
offered.

On the whole the services provided for the no abode, whether public or non-profit, are of the “old fashioned
welfare” type. Primary needs are met by immediate delivery of resources necessary for survival in order to
alleviate hardship. Nevertheless, examples of very progressive initiatives are to be found which integrate
different resources in order to help individuals to develop their own capacities for social reintegration. A
                                                                                                              65
large gap between the north and south of the country emerges in this respect. Co-ordination between public
sector and private welfare organisations that programme and deliver services for the no abode is not
particularly widespread, at least at an operational level.



12. As for the general Welfare system, the Italian case has been - until recently - a good
example of how this type of “external” limitations may weaken both specific reintegration
programmes and local policies addressed to poverty and homelessness. Many difficulties met
with by the more innovative experiences are to be sought in the general limitations of the
Welfare system. Local policies of reintegration have found many limits because of the lack
of an institutional frame providing them with stable financial sources and clear eligibility
criteria.

In the Italian case, a full development of the new approach to reintegration demands a new
institutional framework. The necessary innovation regard the creation of a more "universal"
welfare model, the institution, as one fundamental element of a national system guaranteeing
a minimum income, and the constitution of integrated packets of rights and resources to be
implemented right across the country; the approach between the social assistance system and
the general social protection system, particularly as regards the relationships between social
assistance and social housing; the targeting of general social policies to the needs of groups
of population in hardship - for instance, the introduction of housing policies more targeted to
marginalised groups and groups in extreme poverty.

This is now in work, important changes have occurred in this direction in the general
legislative and governmental field. However, there is some uncertainty on the meaning and
perspective outcomes of this innovation. While on the whole social welfare policies have
moved in the right direction (but there is uncertainty about what the new government will
make of it), the same cannot be said of housing policies.


13. None of these reintegration plans would have been possible without the range of facilities
and services provided in the community, and for the most part current equilibriums are
dependent on this range of assistance: general and specialised public services (e.g. mental
health services), private sector social work services, those of the Roman Catholic Church in
particular, both those targeted directly at reintegration and those which provide “context“
support (welfare, orientation, job opportunities, etc.) necessary for reintegration.
Reintegration institutions and initiatives must also be able to count on this provision in order
to perform their work.

In addition to specific (reintegration) services, an important role is played by general
“context“ services, which provide access to the system of community resources.

Maintenance of current levels of equilibrium depends - for almost all the interviewees - on
support from the public welfare system in so far as it provides housing, benefits and pensions
and other monetary assistance.
                                                                                                       66
14. Among the elements of this system, access to low cost housing plays a fundamental role.
The public housing stock is the basic resource for this. All the persons interviewed except
one are housed in public housing units, according to the different formulas already
mentioned: public housing given to associations in order to realise their reinsertion
programmes, public housing given to associations to meet specific types of social demand,
ordinary public housing, allocated by normal or special (emergency/social cases) procedures.
All these forms seem to play important roles. It is likely that the privatisation of the public
stock, currently planned at regional level, will cause problems for this point of view, even if
some compensatory measures (rent allowances) will be provided.

Problems regard, however, access procedures (difficulties for persons not belonging to
“special categories”), quality (in these cases public sector housing means poor quality and at
times very poor), links between rehousing and social support (assignment by Municipality
not necessarily imply adequate social support unless other partners - associations - are
involved).

Most problems raise again questions about the limitations of the general system of housing,
and the urgency of innovation as regards the capacity to come to terms with the new
interconnections between impoverishment and housing hardship/poverty processes.


14. Employment is very important in reintegration and in determining the equilibrium and
level of autonomy achieved, both as a source of income and because of the meaning/value it
assumes in the equilibrium of an individual‟s life.

Work is an area that continues to be critical for many. Few have a normal job. Many are
unable to do normal jobs or are in any case considered incapable of doing one. There are
many “job grant” and precarious type jobs, and “normal” jobs are often part time and not full
salary.

The hardships and problems that interviewees reported reflect this job insecurity, the
difficulty in drawing normal, economic, personal relationship and symbolic benefits from it.
The stigmatisation increases the precariousness and it can be particularly penalising for work.
On the other hand differential treatment is experienced as unjust and “discriminating”
especially when it is not justified by the need to learn a trade.

To a large extent these observations open up questions over protected jobs, “half jobs” or
small jobs: the need to add to them and find additional sources of income in the presence of
keen competition for access to these jobs; the difficulty in giving value to this work in a
situation where it is difficult to find a balance between protection and autonomy.

15. Most of the criticisms made by interviewees concerns financial assistance. In general
these persons maintain themselves by putting together pieces of income from different
                                                                                            67
sources (welfare and other), but this bricolage is not always sufficient to prevent states of
extreme poverty. For the elderly persons above all, income obtained from work is not
sufficient. The need for adequate and automatic - not dependent that is on the discretion of
the authorities - monetary benefits was explicitly mentioned by some of the elderly
interviewees: the national (experimental) plan for “minimum insertion income” could be a
step in this direction.




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