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Urban Suffering Studies Center



In the Belly of Naples

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Aurora Rosa  Caliendo Grazia Tatarella


The "Massimo Leone" Foundation: a non-profit organization in support of the homeless.


I work in daily contact with fragile and needy people, and for this reason have to understand their history, the world they come from, and their past and present life. This knowledge allows us, on one hand, to fully understand the people we relate to and, on the other hand, to study satisfactory interventions.
The work carried out with the homeless has shown how important the stories of their life are in allowing us to open the door to this apparently impenetrable world. A strange and unknown world, a hidden, underground world, lacerated and shameful, fearful and at the same time violent, socially excluded and undesirable. A world of men conscious of their own failures, the majority of them victims of a never-ending destructuring. They have had to face up to crisis after crisis, being unsuccessful, and having to start all over again. Their life is a sum of hardships, having a multiple effect: in some cases we are dealing with people with a very low level of education, lacking in solid and lasting relationships, without any contact with the family of origin and without any ties of solidarity or vicinity.
Listening to the stories of the homeless that arrive at the Massimo Leone Foundation or the Reception Centre of Naples through a series of qualitative interviews, clearly shows what the so-called supporters of the theory of "cumulative traumatic effects "express. They sustain that the process of social exclusion leading to the condition of being homeless is usually set off by a group of distinct negative events that join together in a traumatic way, and that the subjects involved are not capable of replying to, due to the absence of the necessary economic, relational and cognitive resources . At the base of the condition of being homeless there seems to be, therefore, according to the supporters of this point of view, the convergence between a deficit of individual resources and a syndrome of multiple accumulation of disadvantages. According to this position, the causes that trigger off the process are of a various kind. We can take as an example the list proposed by an italian research that identifies the following factors as starting off the course towards the condition of being homeless: one of the most relevant factors is clearly found to be institutionalization (imprisonment, admission to a psychiatric hospital, institutionalization at an early age) with the consequential emotional burden that this causes; the expulsion from productive processes (unemployment, economic bankruptcy) is certainly a procedure that leads to a severe detachment from daily habits; the effect produced by an emotional checkmate is not to be underestimated either (delusions in love and maternity outside of marriage); a further relevant factor is definately a severe dependence on alcohol or drugs; there are also more endogenous causes tied to the phase of development of the identity of Self such as exposure to violence (being subjected to sexual, physical or moral violence); behaviours that cause an expulsion from educational and socializing processes (lack of scholastic success, separation from group membership). Other elements to be taken into consideration, and that have been investigated as possible causes, are: all behaviours that indicate sexual deviance (prostitution and homosexuality), and also the deep-seated break that sets in with one's own family causing the expulsion from it; in some cases it has been noticed that there is a corrispondence between individuals that have experienced episodes of close family relations losing their homes (eg. Homeless parents), also all those events that provoke a traumatic breakup of the family nucleus (separation, divorce, death of a parent).
Those who support this position state, in brief, that the interaction of a few of these factors is behind almost all of the homeless that live the alienation of a life on the streets. From the interviews given, an incisive and determining presence strongly emerges of some of the above mentioned problems that lead to the condition of extreme harship, in which the interviewed subjects find themselves.
The way through which the Massimo Leone Foundation works for those most in need, is by getting to know individuals through stories of their life. Studying and being familiar with the reality of the homeless is the first step in developing ways of intervening, with the intention of recuperating the dignity of those, who often without realising it, find themselves in conditions of extreme hardship.

1. The Massimo Leone Foundation

Legally recognised in may 1994 the Massimo Leone Foundation was the natural development of a story connected to active voluntary work and for the need of becoming operative, in a concrete and organized way, thanks to an association in the "campano" territory, which had the intervention in favour of the homeless as a statutory finality. The founders, in fact, had matured many years of experience in voluntary work at the ex Public Dormitory "Vittorio Emanuele II" of Naples, now known as the Preliminary Welcome Centre.
The idea of giving life to organized voluntary work was also born so as to support, investigate and communicate social problems, often not confronted in their entirety, but broken up into parts and included in other spheres of competence, risking that way, of depriving them of being really understood.
In the public imagination a homeless person is identified with the romantic figure of a tramp of french tradition, who freely chooses to live on the streets abandoning the idea of adapting to the rules of a civil society. The new homeless - as we will see - are fundamentally weak people, burdened with stories characterised by the continual bust-ups that appear in the biographies of these subjects, and that contribute to the process of loss of social bearings that personally concern them. The individuals who experiment these difficulties live in extremely precarious conditions, often sleeping on the streets and only a small percentage of those who fill the queues of the homeless poor have the fortune of finding a place to stay in the welcome centres, dormitories or residential structures of a secondary level. In getting to know the stories of the lives of the individuals who enter the reception circuits, one notices that apart from the "tougher" stories (personal episodes in which destiny seems to persecute a single human being with a series of disasters that lead, among other things, to the loss of a domestic dimension) it is possible to hear stories of job insecurity, tales of individuals who had lived a serene existence up to the moment in which the scourge of black-market work or an imminent eviction devastated a normal daily routine.
The consideration is inevitable, the loss of parents, the transfer of the family network to other cities, the lack of a long-lasting sentimental tie, (conditions in which many people can identify themselves) and a difficult economical situation is enough to risk finishing up in "the middle of the street".
From listening to these stories and from a careful analysis of the factors that come into play in the different paths leading to exclusion, one realises the need to vary operations for help. Many of the homeless who get to take part in the welcome circuits turn up with a series of evident problems for which immediate intervention is important (just think of the ex alcoholics, drug addicts, convicts ...). The condition of those who don't suffer from problems of dependency is different, they don't show closure to the exterior world, but at the same time they are disorientated, lost, in need of help. In some way or other, they have passed unobserved for years even from the point of view of research, no one has ever asked what their emotional situation was, what type of separation was being created between their previous existence and this new condition, often sustained exclusively through actions of mere welfarism.
It's exactly for these silent souls, for these cases without apparent problematic aspects, that the Massimo Leone Foundation has felt the need to create something different.
If it is true that everyone has the right to be listened to, accompanied, supported without falling into easy exemplifications, it's also true that it's necessary to provide an integrated system of services to face up to the variations of problems that can't be sectorialized or schematized. It's from this picture, that the beginning of an experience starts to wedge its way in, starting off from small things up to the creation of an ong, that today has activated a series of services operating daily in the complex social fabric of a difficult urban reality such as the napolitan one.

2. The Mission and the services of the Massimo Leone Foundation

The operative mission of the Massimo Leone Foundation proposes to follow those people who find themselves in a state of need, with the scope of accompanying them along a course of rehabilitation and an authentic social and job reinsertion.
To reach this objective it was decided to not give help linked to a scheme of assistence directed exclusively at replying to basic human needs (even while not denying that they are essential), but it was decided to help these individuals, by overcoming initial obstacles connected to a sense of destitution, and helping them to recuperate their personal dignity. In fact, only by regaining one's individuality, can a person be sent once again into an often extremely hard and complex world, to face up to every day difficulties in a better way, maturing a consciousness of those rights and duties that help a person to be really part of the social fabric.
For this reason the Foundation has activated a series of services directed on one hand at supporting the homeless along the course of rehabilitation and on the other, to furnish them with instruments for getting out of a condition of extreme hardship.

• "Beato Luigi Palazzolo" Polyspecialistic Ambulatory Health Assistance Centre: a low threshold centre; it receives italian and foreign patients in serious situations of poverty. It not only proposes to cure ambulatorial pathologies, but also wishes to be a place of specialization and research in the physical and psychic health of the homeless with the objective, through epidermological study, of being able to monitor and cure pathologies that are present with a certain frequency. In this way it carries out a function of health observation and awareness through preventive campaigns (vaccinations, oral hygiene, prophylaxis antituberculosis, antitumour etc.).

• "Binario della Solidarietà" Day Welcome Centre: a functional reality that proposes to study the problems of the homeless and to educate the Community to behave in a sharing and welcoming way towards them.
The objective of the Centre is human, relational and social encouragement that goes beyond simple welfarism by placing the person at the centre of attention and actuating individual, educational projects both for him and shared with him (PEI). The Centre offers spaces, opportunities and services (among which an evening canteen and the use of showers/wardrobe), but it is above all a place where needy people can meet up with each other and come into contact with volunteers and workers of the MLF who will help them and give them support on the course towards rehabilitation.
The Binario della Solidarietà, deals specifically with the homeless, for the main part italians, accompanying them on a course towards social reintegration, not only temporarily and/or definitively curbing the difficulty or the hardship that the person displays, but also and above all giving them back dignity, furthering autonomy and integration.
Those who turn to the Centre do so out of personal choice or because they are directed there by public and private structures of the region. They are received after an interview for getting acquainted and gathering information, carried out by the workers of the MLF who then elaborate a personal project of action.

• "Santa Maria La Palma" Listening Centre: through which it is possible to begin constructing a relationhip with the homeless, evaluating the typology of intervention to be offered to the users. The periods of listening pass through different channels. An initial contact can take place through a structured transfer from other institutions that get in contact with the workers of the MLF, to a network that evaluates the typology of the immediate intervention to be put into action concerning the needy person. A second channel provides for the direct taking into charge of individuals who, after an analysis of their needs, are placed into courses for rehabilitation offered by the MLF. It often happens that the users come spontaneously to our services, searching for information, being in need of the right orientation. The homeless are listened to by experts who also give them support, accompanying them and monitoring them and above all reinforcing their psychological and motivational profile.

• Casa "Gaia": is a residential structure (max 12 places) where homeless guests can return to living in a family dimension, sharing with others the responsability of running a domestic household, learning to feel as one's own, a physical space that can also become a place dedicated to acquiring a personal autonomy. Infact the Home receives people that, after having followed a course for rehabilitation through the services of the MLF, are ready for a social and job reinsertion. The objective is to allow the users to experiment life back in a community where one takes part in all the daily actions: from the hygiene of the house, to the comunal kitchen, passing through moments of socialization and sharing. The people who enter the structure have the possibility of being accompanied on a course of job orientation, confronting themselves once again with the labour market. A double form of support is usually offered: on one hand the possibility of regaining the principle functions fundamental to the domestic management of an independant space, on the other the possibility of finding a stable occupation once again, an indispensable step for setting up a concrete re-admission to the social fabric.

• The Study Centre: is involved, through the principle means of comunication, in monitoring, observing and studying the phenomenon of the homeless, to be able to acquire more knowledge of the problems relative to homelessness, to improve intervention techniques and circulate useful information that allows certain stereotypes to be removed.
The Centre, apart from publishing processed data (that can be found by consulting the following site,, also organizes campaigns to create awareness and to communicate regarding the principal social promoters present on the territory, having a shared area of intervention. Thanks to the analysis of the phenomenon it is possible to promote formation courses in partnership with other organizations to meet and form operators and volunteers that take part in this area of intervention. In this connection, each year various formation courses are organized for those who want to begin a programme of volunteerism in this sector. The courses, held by psychologists and psychotherapists working in the foundation, offer the possibility of receiving an orientation and guide lines for trying to enstore relationships for helping, that are "healthy", both for the users and for those who decide to dedicate a part of their time to others. It has been noted that these periods of formation constitute a fundamental point in practical progress. The homeless have complicated problems and can easily place the volunteer in a condition of helplessness or difficulty, giving up as a result. The purpose of a correct formation is comprised in the will not to loose precious resources, but also in the necessity to help understand how vast and unnerving these problems can be.
The Centre partecipates in and promotes activities of interchange with presentations, meetings, workshops, having the scope of elaborating new applicative methods, thanks to the competence of experts on the subject.


3. The activities of the Massimo Leone Foundation

All the services of the MLF offer a series of activities that accompany the individual on a personal daily progression that will enable him to become a member of society once again.
In particolar it is possibile to make use of:

• Listening centres: using listening spaces, the MLF offers people who feel the need, the possibility to spontaneously consult the services, to allow them to formulate a request for help in a direct manner. The operators are also, at the complete disposition of other organizations present on our territory, who feel that it is advisable to direct people to the Centres to receive concrete, synergic and structured help.

• Psychological support: the users taken in care by the services have the possibility of being accompanied from a psychological point of view through structured interviews and group meetings directed at helping people in moments of difficulty. Considering the highly critical situation of an individual who finds himself living without a home, the MLF has reinforced this type of intervention, provided for in all its services and helped by a valuable collaboration with the various DSM present on the territory.

• Family mediation and counselling: the interventions of family mediation and counselling are closely connected to the activities of listening and to psychological support. Following a valid analysis of requirements, the operators of the MLF try to accompany the individuals, supporting them in all the critical phases of their evolution, both personal and of a family nature (mourning, support of parenthood, crisis of the couple, separations, divorces etc.).

• Job orientation: one of the main obstacles of an authentic social rehabilitation is the lack of stable employment. From this came the need to create a job counter so as to help people who are tackling a rehabilitation programme. The counter proposes to:
- weigh up capabilities;
- reconstruct the situation of employment preceeding the crisis phase (the presence of employment contracts; control of the contribution situation; registration at unemployment offices; state of unemployment etc.);
- Draw up a curriculum vitae in an electronic format;
- Carry out an exploration with the help of the operators who mediate between the offers of work and the candidacy of the users.
We are not speaking about an employment office, the work of the operators is to match situations wanted with situations offered on the labour market, taking into consideration the real potentialities that an individual possesses at the moment in which he decides to put himself in circulation again in the work ambit.
• Legal assistence: thanks to the help of some solicitors who give free, voluntary legal aid, it is possible to offer legal support both in the criminal and civil area of activity, for those who need it. The MLF considers this service extremely important in resolving disputes that can invalidate a new course of life.

• Occupational laboratories: The project "LABORATORIES" (initiating with the mini-project for working leather) is part of the more wider "CHALLENGE PROJECT" of the MLF that plans a series of cultural and manual type projects for recuperating people and rehabilitating them in the world of work. The project consists in a programme of individual support of the person provided for by volunteers with an educational function and by qualified staff such as psychologists, masters of arts, laboratory trainers. The group refers to an operator who, with his continual presence, coordinates the volunteers and helps to integrate the various roles that interact in the groups. The activity is preceeded and accompanied by formative periods for learning how to live with others, to dedicate oneself to work, to respect schedules, to lay out a personal project for recuperation and rehabilitation. At the moment laboratories for leather, ceramics, découpage, jewellery (in the manual area) and informatics, learning how to read and write, theatre and music (in the cultural area) are active as part of the services of the MLF. During last year a course for pizza makers has been started up, in collaboration with the association for the category "Pizzaiuoli Napoletani", giving a certificate of recognition for use in the work ambit at the end of the formation period.
• Spaces for reading and socializing: the MLF has created a space for reading and socializing in the rooms of its Centres. A reception area has also been created for those individuals who, even though not directly taken in charge by the operators, have requested a calm place where they can take shelter so as to avoid having to stay on the street.
• Internet-point: starting from september 2010 the MLF has set up an internet-point service. Considering the importance of multimedia means and the indispensability of internet in the daily life of many people, it was considered opportune to offer the same possibility to people going through a difficult period. The service is open to all those requesting it, in respect of the present laws. It is necessary to put one's name down on paper and a very small financial contribution is requested so as to responsibilize those who feel the need to use this comunication media. of th


Work with homeless people is more difficult in the napoletan reality, where levels of unemployment are very high and the services don't always reply to the real needs of the territory. In this context the Massimo Leone Foundation is involved in the construction and consolidation of a territorial social network together with the associations (public and private) dealing with people in need, to be able to give a structured intervention that can meet the most varied demands, from the moment that it is considered opportune to promote and sustain many initiatives in favour of the homeless, collaborating with the work of other associations of the same style, so that an effective sharing can help in the diffusion of a better organized social assistance reality.
To give a structured definition of the operative intervention of the MLF was a necessary passage for the growth of all the human resources involved in the recuperation and rehabilitation projects for the homeless. Making the objectives and the actual possibilities of realizing them clear, has shown to be very important for the maturing of the concept of sharing work, of a network of intervention.
Thanks to the services operating it is possible, in fact, to receive people, proceed through a phase of observation, move on to orientation activities, arriving in the end at a real and actual operational phase in which a new project of life is constructed together.




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The study centre wishes to study the phenomenon of urban suffering, in other words the suffering that is specific to the great metropolises. Urban Suffering is a category that describes the meeting of individual suffering with the social fabric that they inhabit. The description, the understanding and the transformation of the psychological and social dynamics that develop from the meeting of ...

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The Urban Suffering Studies Center - SOUQ - arises from Milan, a place of complexity and economic and social contradictions belonged to global world.Tightly linked to Casa della Carità Foundation, which provides assistance and care to unserved populations in Milan (such as immigrants legal and illegal, homeless, vulnerable minorities), the Urban Suffering Studies Center puts attention on ...


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ISSN 2282-5754 Souquaderni [online] by SOUQ - Centro Studi sulla Sofferenza Urbana - CF: 97316770151
Last update: 26/11/2020

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