In his Christmas Eve homily this year, Pope Francis said the holiday should remind people to do what they can for people in need. It's a message being put into practice just a stone's throw from the Vatican - where a homeless shelter opened by Pope Francis last year is providing shelter and hope to its residents.
A warm meal and a safe shelter for the night. Life has not always been kind to these people, but now they can enjoy the comfort and the beauty of this 17th century noble palace in S. Peter’s Square in Rome.
The Pope opened the shelter in November 2019 and declared it a place where the destitute can find their way to a better life.
Carlo Santoro is Director of St. Egidio Community's Migliori Palace:
“Many poor people have stayed here and many eventually found their own path, their home; often, some even returned to their families.”
This transition to a new life is even more important today, in the COVID-19 era, especially for the homeless without health care.
“In this moment, it is very difficult to get access to the health system because of the pandemic, this aspect is more important than ever," says physician Claudia Palazzolo who volunteers at the Migliori Palace. "They are afraid of going to hospital and many hospital services are closed. So, we are able to avoid unneeded accesses to emergency rooms, when possible.”
“Unfortunately, we are living in this situation, where all hospitals are actually dedicated to Covid," says Director Carlo Santoro. "Over the last month, three people died alone in the street, just here around the corner, and none of them because of Covid, but because they had been left alone.”
“This is like home to me," says Mario Brezza, who is living at the shelter. "You can sleep, eat, wash yourself; if not, where would you go? Let’s thank the Pope, who opened this place last year. Otherwise, where would all 32 of us be now?”
People like Mario Brezza say they've found a family here and today they will enjoy Christmas lunch together.
“Christmas lunch of St. Egidio Community creates an unique bond with the people," says Carlo Santoro. "Not only with the poor but it is a very strong bond for us too, because it is a family reunion for those who don’t have a family, for those who would stay alone on Christmas day.”