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"Casa Dolce Caritas": "Home Sweet Home"

(Vatican Radio) The Diocesan Rome Caritas organization together with Italian State Railway on Thursday will launch a project to renovate the overcrowded Caritas “Don Luigi Di Liegro” Hostel and Soup Kitchen at Rome’s central Termini train station.

“Casa dolce Caritas” is the name given to the solidarity campaign that kicks off on December 8th and that aims to renovate and re-qualify the Hostel, a point of reference that offers short term shelter, hot meals and psychological support to thousands of poor people struggling to survive on the streets of the big city. In the year 2012 the shelter hosted over 1.500 homeless people and fed many, many more.

As Sister Mariarita Falco explains to Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni the initiative to renew the hostel is absolutely necessary on a practical level, but it is just as important to listen to what Pope Francis keeps telling us about the need for a change of heart and the need to give something to others to be able to change the world…

Listen to the interview with Sister Mariarita Falco who belongs to the Institute of the Daughters of Mercy and works with Secretariat of the Diocesan Rome Caritas… RealAudioMP3

Sister Mariarita explains that “Casa DolceCaritas” is a solidarity campaign that supports the complete renewal of the “Luigi Di Liegro Shelter for the homeless. The name chosen is a sort of a pun on “Home Sweet Home” because – she says - the shelter is not intended to be just a temporary solution for homeless people, but it aims to give them a starting point for a better life and a steady solution for the future.

Sister Mariarita says the shelter was opened by Father Luigi Di Liegro back in 1987 in a big building in Termini Railway Station. Today, many years later it is in urgent need of renovation as tens of thousands of people have passed through and the building also needs to be adapted to new security rules.

So, she says, with the help of the Italian Railways, Caritas Rome launched this campaign which consists in a sort of awareness raising of people towards homeless and poor people in our cities, and tries to collect funds to help the renovation process.

Sister Mariarita says that for the campaign Caritas and other charity organization volunteers will travel on trains all over Italy because – she points out - the campaign is a national one that includes many major cities. The volunteers will talk to passengers and explain the purpose of the campaign and ask them to buy small gadgets to sustain the initiative. Very important – she says – the volunteers will talk about the importance of having a mutual attention to people who are in need nowadays and they will explain that the shelter is not only a temporary roof over their heads, but it is a “starting point, a place where people can find a bed, food but also someone who will listen, friendships, self-confidence and the hope to start a better life”.

Sister Mariarita says “the shelter is conceived as a temporary solution and people generally stay from about three to six months according to their situations. Every three months they talk to volunteers or professional operators to see whether they have found a job or other accommodation, or perhaps to find out whether the young foreigners they have learnt Italian” and are ready to face the world. Of course – she says – “there are individual cases, people with particular needs, maybe elder people who cannot find other accommodation, so Caritas foresees a second level of accommodation for older people who were homeless but have learnt how to live in a community which – she says - is very different from just living alone. There are many rules they have to abide to.

Sister Mariarita says that Pope Francis “has given dignity to words that were not so respected. Words like “solidarity”, “good”, “self-giving”, “sacrifice” – words that have been neglected in the past years. He has reminded us that these are good words because they express the dignity of people”.

So – she says - this is a great help he has given us. “Of course the Pope speaks, but we have to listen otherwise they are just speeches. But he has a great impact on people’s consciousness so I think these words will go far, far away”.

In a final appeal to listeners, Sister MariaRita says: “I want to say: just pay attention and try to change ourselves because the change in the world depends on us. Poor people are not guilty, they are just unlucky or perhaps more fragile than the rest of us. So pay attention, change your heart and give something of yourself to change some things in the world”.


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