Thursday, 16 October 2008

Homelessness in Torino

Ludovica and I have just returned from picking up Marta from swimming. It has been a long day for all of us - Anna is yawning big gaping yawns, Marta is talking a mile a minute (a sure sign that she is overtired), and Ludovica has fallen into a deep, thoughtful silence, as have I.

As we turn into the parking lot, a sight which pleases none of us meets our eyes. A man, with unwashed clothes, a barrette, and eyes that roll in different directions was directing us into a free parking space.

"What is he doing that for?" I asked. "It's obvious that there is a space. It's right in front of our noses!"

I should have guessed because I had seen it numerous times before. He was one of the many homeless people in Torino employing one of the many "creative" ways of making an extra euro. Only last week, our car had been stopped to a screeching halt in the middle of the road by a women and a man dressed in Gypsy garb, holding signs with the word of Christ scribbled upon them in one hand, and a small plastic cup filled with small change in the other. Others hand out newspapers and ask for money afterwards, and still others sell extremely cheap merchandise on the sidewalks that line the streets.

What surprises me most about these people is that unlike homeless people in Canada who are quite passive, those in Italy will push and push until they receive that precious Euro from you. What they say to convince people, precisely, I am not yet certain, but the most common pitch seems to be something along the lines of "God will bless your children if you help me, and if you don't help me, may you burn in h***." (Pleasant, I know!) The closest experience I had to this in North America was the time my friend and I arrived in Chicago and attempted to find the information desk. When a man offered to show us where it was, we took up his offer and followed him, only to be asked for two dollars for his services afterwards. Worst of all, he would not leave us alone until we had handed over the money. This is the only time that I have been met with this kind of persistence in North America that I can recall.

To be honest, I don't really know how to feel about the "creativity" of the homeless people here. I understand that many of them have no other way of surviving, but their persistent nature personally causes me to feel quite uneasy whenever I walk along the streets, especially when the children are with me. Plus, I do not appreciate the threats regarding the so-called fate of my soul. The only option seems to be to have a pocket full of small change whenever I go out, just to keep them at bay.


Alex Humick said...

Get a taser.

heather-in-italia said...

Alex! You're reading my blog! (dances around happily) Good idea...I wish it were possible. Or maybe I could manufacture fake Euros and hand those out instead......hmmm.....

shannon said...

this is a late, late post.
i found that when i visited England, the homeless were the same way. Many women would have dolls which they played off as their babies and one man had a group of three puppies to yank on heart strings of people passing by.

Anonymous said...

Here is a thought I'd you can give them money keep a water bottle or an apple or something if they really are in need that will also be appreciated and you will not feel bad all the time

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