"...there are so many poor people who never seek us out. So we must go out and find them ourselves.
If I don’t go out and find them, I am not telling the truth if I say that they’re my brothers and sisters." Father Oreste Benzi

 

Ever faithful to Father Benzi’s mandate, "when the poor don’t seek us out, we have to go and find them ourselves ", the Community has started to go out to meet the poor in railways stations, under bridges, on park benches, in empty houses and wherever they are taking refuge, seeking out a safe place to spend the night.

In 1987 the first Bethlehem Hut opened in Rimini, and emergency place of welcome, open day and night, where the ‘invisible ones’ could find not only a roof over their head and a bed to sleep in but also the warmth of a family displayed in important moments of sharing such as mealtimes and in dialogue, gradually making it possible to build meaningful relationships.

Before gaining a deep understanding of their problem, it could be thought that these street people are dirty, lazy good-for-nothings, hopeless parasites, crazies, drunks and junkies who have chosen to live in that state.
Nothing could be further from the truth in that the vast majority would love to have a home and a steady job, to live normally, building relationships with others. In general, they have had a traumatic life. Some have split up with their partner, fallen out with their parents or their children, others find themselves homeless and penniless after years in prison or a psychiatric home. Yet others have been evicted or lost their job.

Bethlehem Huts usually organise one or two trips out into the streets every day to meet these people. Once before dinner to offer them a meal and then late in the evening to offer them a bed for the night.

Now people who come to a Bethlehem Hut also have the chance to escape from their condition by setting out a personalised plan for social reintegration. This route depends on the person’s own ability to rediscover the will to live a life of dignity, on the capacity to fight against injustice  and the fraternal support of people who become their “nearest and dearest”.

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