Near the main train station in Turin, a well-known city in northern Italy, specifically in 24, Nizza Street, there is a small Vincentian Center “for and with” the homeless.
The Center is called “Saint Louise House,” and was inaugurated in the 1960s; it is animated by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Vincentian Volunteers of the Volunteer Organization “The Charity of Saint Louise.” It is also called simply “Charity.”
The “Charity of Saint Louise” was reconstituted and renewed in 2017, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism.
The Sisters and Volunteers of this “Charity” try to live simply in the spirit of the first Vincentian foundations:
- serving Christ in the poorest, with activities that promote the person,
- organizing action, focusing on interpersonal relationships, human warmth, individual commitment, rebirth processes;
- involving the poor in helping other poor people, favoring mutual acts of charity, listening to the proposals of these, “our masters,” as St. Vincent considered them.
At “Charity,” the Vincentian charism is shared with many Volunteers motivated by the Gospel of Jesus, with some who say they are “in search” and with other believers of other religions, but all united to concretely build love for those in need.
Everyone, men and women, Italians and foreigners, give importance to the time they spend together, to the attention to each individual, to the care of the quality of service for the “Friends,” as they call those who come to call at “24,” the street number of the Vincentian Center.
Among the members of the “Charity” there are also people who have experienced the status of “homeless” in the past and now offer their experience to serve the neediest friends, as volunteers.
Many young volunteers work in “Charity”: scouts, university students, workers. It offers young people opportunities for service training, practical activities and personal meetings with the “Friends.” Very often, young people who participate in the service also involve their family and friends. Charity is contagious!
Saint Louise House is small, but offers many possibilities.
The center opens early in the morning. Friends are greeted with cordiality, trying to call everyone by name, even among hundreds of people.
We begin by alleviating the basic needs: breakfast, shower, changing room, haircut, ambulatory medical clinic… The first commitment of the Sisters and Volunteers is to make the people feel “at home,” “in family.”
In this climate of fraternity, we seek to deepen our knowledge, reconstruct life stories, help our Friends find balance and harmony, restore relations with their families, with society, with the Authorities that can guarantee their civil, social and health rights and duties. The “Charity” also offers a postal address, telephone recharge, and luggage storage for the few things they still possess.
These women and men often live adrift, wounded by life with very deep scars and open wounds. The listening service of the “Charity” tries in particular to create, together with other public and private agencies, a support and protection network, in solidarity and fraternity.
The integral promotion of the person is also achieved by taking care of their active citizenship and their inner enrichment. “Charity” invites spiritual and educational opportunities and has a well-stocked library. At the request of the “Charity,” public and private institutions invite Friends to participate in conferences, exhibitions, concerts, or films in the cinema, as ordinary people do. The response is always positive. Friends can enjoy the beauty of culture and art not only in events “for the poor” but also in everyday life.
“Charity” is small, but it is big in the eyes of the Friends:
- “We feel good with you… here we feel treated differently than… There is an atmosphere that… I can’t explain, but I feel welcome, accepted, myself.”
- “I don’t have a family anymore, I don’t have anyone… no, it’s not true, you are my family!“
Blessed be God
- for the gift of “Charity” and His Friends;
- for the gift of the Vincentian charism, always present in its simplicity and excellence;
- for the gift of his Spirit, creative love to infinity, as St. Vincent de Paul still tells us.