The Italian experience of providing a reference address to homeless people, from the perspective of the NGO Avvocato di Strada
Protecting the right to residency
In order to defend people's residency rights, the Italian NGO Avvocato di strada has been fighting for the proper application of the relevant Italian law, which dates 1954 and states under article 1.2, “Homeless people are considered resident in the domicile municipality” where domicile stands for, under Civil Code article 43.1, “ the place where one establishes his own affairs' headquarter”.
The aim of the law is to enhance the relationship the homeless person has with the town in which he\she is living, regardless of them having a proper dwelling or not. ISTAT (Italian Institute of Statistics) has defined a pretty creative way on how to register homeless people who are living in a municipality on a permanent basis. Each municipality, according to the ISTAT directive, has to set up a fake street to which these persons can apply in order to take up residency. The street does not really exist but has equal standing from a legal perspective, thus granting access to fundamental rights in terms of residency.
To date, the name usually given to such a street has been “Hospitality road”, “Homeless avenue”, “Common home street”. The paradox is that having such a residency may easily become a grounds for discrimination. On the other hand however, having a registered address, whatever the name of the street, is the first step towards getting from the state those rights and services which are fundamental to homeless people to enter onto a path of social inclusion.
Given this fact, Avvocato di strada began to take action in every Italian municipality, initially from a legal perspective, in order to enable the Registry Office establish the fake street. Then, taking more political action, it started to urge the Municipality Councils to entitle fake addresses to those citizens living in poverty and struggling for equal rights. Nowadays, for instance, the fake street in Bologna is named Via Mariano Tuccella, in memory of a homeless man who died after a fatal attack, while in Florence the street is named Via Libero Leandro Lastrucci, in memory of a man who dedicated his whole life to help homeless people. The principle is thus being respected: no matter whether you possess a proper dwelling or not, access to fundamental rights must be granted to everyone, with or without a home.