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Helpcenter of Florence Report of Activities 2012/2013

ACISJF PROTEZIONE DELLA GIOVANE DI FIRENZE Stazione Santa Maria Novella – Binario 2 e 5
50123 F i r e n z e Tel. e fax 055. 294635 C.F. 94035270480 e­.mail: acisjf.firenze@virgilio.it

HELP CENTER OF FLORENCE – Train Station Santa Maria Novella:
REPORT OF ACTIVITIES 2012 / 2013

During last years our Help Center has carried on its continuous work of helping and orienting the users of Florence Train Station, promptly encountering their urgent needs, thanks also to public and private services of our city area. The number of accesses at our help desk has recently grown up from 2184 in 2012, to 2630 in 2013, and in particular the number of Italian users has considerably increased; we have also to consider apart the students of language courses held last year.

The demands coming from adult users, and mostly due to unemployment and other economic problems- together with the lack of a place to stay – lead us to enforce a network of collaboration with private and public institutions of our territory. For instance, we managed to solve the situation of an Italian woman, who had lived for years in homeless shelters, through a path of training and job education at our Help Center, where she took an informatics course, and thanks also to the help of social services. We succeeded then to get a house for her from the “Foundation for poor people houses”, helping her in a progress towards a greater personal responsibility. In addition, in order to encounter all the requests for medicines for our users, we established a collaboration with two organs of our territory, the project “Fiorino Solidale” and the “Centro Missionario”. Another issue to point out is that the economic crisis currently lead more and more immigrants to decide to voluntarily come back to their native countries; we are receiving many increasing requests to organize “repatriations” for them, collaborating with Florence municipality and other organizations: 10 requests in 2013 towards different countries ( Hungary, Romania, France, Poland and Belarus). In order to better integrate them into our society, many homeless people received legal residence at our “Homeless house”, and that helped them to start a new path towards legality, autonomy and so to acquire citizenship rights. Furthermore, during 2013, our Help Center has tried to face and stem difficult situations of degradation typical of the Station area, following the frequent warnings of the public authority: for instance homeless people with handicap or contagious diseases may represent a real for others frequenting the same place. In many occasions we have been with and along them for doctor's appo­intments, for buying medicines or giving them the economic help to use sanitary facilities. Besides, the overwhelming presence of homeless people with psychiatric diseases has become an urgent problem, that services or day-care centres can no more contain; we are able to stem and make a quick fix for these situations but not to find a definitive solution.

EDUCATION One of the main goal of our Help Center is training the users of our service, so to help them to enter the world of work: during last year we held courses of languages (Italian and English), informatics and civics. We focus also on the training of our volunteers to guarantee the best quality of our service: during the winter time we held a training course for 40 new volunteers who were willing to offer their time, capabilities and assistance for helping indigent people. The course, made of 5 appointments and organized together with many other associations operating in the station area, received the support of the department for sanitary and social politics of Florence municipality. We gave the new volunteers the possibility to choose in which of those associations offer their help and 18 of them have chosen our Help Center. Together with our youngsters, we developed new instruments for searching a job for those people who have a low degree of education and competence, and can’t neither access the computer devices needed: this new instruments comprehend filling in a cv, creating an account to register in websites and applying for an appropriate job offer; our main goal is in fact training those people in order to be more competitive in the world of work. The results we gained raised the interest of the Florence employment centre, with which we established a collaboration, together with another bureau of the municipality specialized in orienting young people in search for job (called “Informagiovani”).

INTERNSHIPS Last year our Association established an agreement with the University of Florence so that some students could have an experience as trainees: two of them comes from the Faculty of Social Science, while another is part a project “Giovani Sì” for non-academic internships in between Tuscany district. Both of them have been giving their active contribution, especially with their work at our helpdesk, helping our users in their search for job. In addition they participated in the elaboration of a “vademecum”, with all the information related to services and resources of our territory that can be useful for needy people, along with a booklet of basic instructions for those working at the helpdesk.

PARTNERSHIPS In order to enforce our capability to encounter all the requests coming from our users, the Help Center has started its own projects and has collaborated with public and private institutions, together with other associations in many sectors: healthcare, housing and accommodation issues and search for job.

GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR We aim first of all at increasing and improving the instruments for job training both inside our association, both as a useful tool for other organizations of Florence. However it is as well highly important to promote the education of the operators working at the Station, in order to face the needs of that environment with a common well-knit project.
We would like also to reinforce the network of services that are already connected and that collaborate with the Help Center. In addition we aim at improving the exposure and visibility of our activities, so that everybody on the territory could see what the association offers.

HOSTING In 2013, Acisjf has stipulated an agreement with Florence Municipality in order to collaborate with it and social services in a more effective way. In order to carry on these collaboration projects with the municipality, Acisjf has been running two projects, the “winter emergency” and the “housing emergency”; with these two systems we‚ve been able to host 54 people, whereof 20 single women, 10 mothers, 17 children and 7 men, for total amount of 16.135 overnights and 17.640 meals. Besides, in 2013 our hosting service, that used to be a temporary one, has become semi-permanent. For most of the hosted people we started a collaboration with the social service competent for their territory; we have helped those needy people for their everyday difficulties (such as red tape operations, doctor‘s appo­intments, payment of bus or train tickets) and we gave them the possibility to attend our language and IT courses; another necessity for them was gaining their documents all in order, since it's the first step towards complete autonomy. We managed to guide many of our hosts in their route towards autonomy; an example above all: we have helped a mother with a one year old daughter to obtain her regular documents and to enrol in a HACCP course to get the certificate for working in catering and restaurant field. After finding her a job , we made it possible to reunite her family, helping her to find an apartment to rent so that her husband could come to live with them. Our association, as in other many cases, has made a contribution, together with the municipality, to the expenditures for the estate agency and the first months of rent, thanks also to the help of the ”ufficio inclusione sociale “ and the social services.

CONCLUSIONS To sum up, the strength of our association lies in the quality of the relationships with all our partners and with other organs and services of city area. Thanks to all this partnerships, our hosts and users feel they are treated and loved in a special way; “we feel like home here” they often say. This year we gained two important rewards: one coming from the “National Centre of voluntary work” that awarded the project of “winter emergency” choosing it as – I quote- “ perfect example of collaboration between volunteers and public administration”. The other came from Rotary Club that awarded the Help Center for our “long-time action representing an example of voluntarily doing more than our own duties”. So we wish to gather also from this important meeting all the incentives that are necessary for a progress to be always up to our standards.

The President Acisjf Florence Adriana Barbecchi

Article by: Bernard Dussaucy on 2014-09-27

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