Italy: lawyers and psychologists assist hundreds of the ‘new poor’ in Rome
There are the elderly who consult the volunteer lawyers about their disability pension; parents of children with mental disorders who request psychological assistance; the unemployed seeking help to pay electricity and gas bills and kindergarten fees; single mothers collecting their parcels of nappies and baby food. Hundreds of destitute people, 90% Italian plus a minority of foreigners, are assisted every year in the ten community centres and four family guidance units that the Grand Priory opened over twenty years ago and which the members of the Order of Malta and volunteers run in various parishes in Rome.
Medicines, clothing and foodstuffs are distributed thanks to both donations from individuals and from sponsors and supermarkets who send food packages to the Order’s centres. It was the big sponsors who enabled us, among other things, to send tonnes of food to Abruzzo in 2009 – to be continued until June 2009 – distributed by the parish priests of the municipalities affected by the earthquake of 6 April.
But it is above all the family guidance units that have over the years become a point of reference for the destitute in various Roman districts. These facilities have offered invaluable legal aid in cases of eviction orders, family abuse, requests to accompany the disabled elderly and women who cannot afford legal or psychiatric services. Besides having resolved countless bureaucratic formalities and criminal cases in recent years the volunteers – including many doctors – have also launched a homecare service for sick and lonely old people, the most marginalized among the categories at risk assisted by the Order of Malta.