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San Patrignaon, Italy: Help for the Addicted and Homeless in this Therapeutic Community

Updated on May 24, 2012

Panhanding for Survival

everyone has a different reason for being homeless
everyone has a different reason for being homeless | Source

Homelessness and Addiction

When you see someone sleeping in a corner of a doorway does it affect you? Do you think with hopelessness, when will this end? How often are you thankful that you and your family have a warm place to sleep? In this economy where homeless numbers are unprecedented, do you think people have chosen to be homeless or thought they would ever end up living on streets that have been paved with the pressures and expectations of a society focused on money and materialistic success?

Regardless of how you have been touched by homelessness or addiction, there is a tangible solution to this huge societal problem that is sweeping the world, and it's called a therapeutic community.

What is a Therapeutic Community?

It is a place that offers an opportunity to heal respectfully, learn a useful skill, change life's direction, regain self confidence, obtain health care, legal assistance and in many cases, a home and all the other supports needed for those who want to rejoin society as productive, healthy contributors after life and circumstances have left them on the streets and, or rock bottom.

Therapeutic communities may differ in size, location, people they are trying to help and the degree to which they help, but they all have one thing in common; they help those the majority of the world has forgotten or refuses to see. They are quiet havens where giving care and love to those who come looking is what it's all about. Sadly there are not enough around. This is not a bandaid solution.

The fact that the therapeutic community San Patrignaon has had a proven success rates of over 70% means that therapeutic communities like it should be set up all over North America and everywhere else in the world where homelessness has taken hold getting bigger, not smaller.

Giving Food Gives Love

world class wines and gourmet food come from San Patrignaon
world class wines and gourmet food come from San Patrignaon | Source

the San Patrignaon Model

The therapeutic community of San Patrignaon in Italy is the largest and most successful work therapeutic community in the world. The medicine is love, and everyone who walks through the gates becomes addicted to the energy of this community.

In the 1970s farmer Vincenzo Muccioli, started the community by reaching out and helping one homeless addict. It has snowballed into a thriving therapeutic working farm community of 2,000 including over 300 paid educators, most of them recovered drug addicts, and 140 volunteers who are responsible for a community that welcomes 700 new residents each year. They go into the program to heal for approximately 4 years while becoming part of a successful therapeutic business venture, learning to create some of the highest quality products made in Italy today.

Residents are buddied up upon arrival with a veteran member so they have an immediate companion who understands exactly what they're going through and they don't feel on their own. immediately they are welcomed into the fold. The withdraw, the low self esteem, the process of relearning how to learn a new craft and everything that comes with redesigning a life is supported.

The people who enter the program want to get better, they are looking for change but struggling with process, most of them are addicts who have hit rock bottom, so once into the program members remain on the property and visitors are limited and monitored.

a Great Look at San Patrignaon

Becoming Part of a Family

All residents start by learning to cook and everything is made from scratch. An appreciation for the love, care and process food undergoes to nourish the body, which is needed to survive, is considered a very important part of the beginning of the healing process "he who gives food gives love". (from video Chefs visit San Patrignaon; Two Greedy Chefs)

Learning to work together to successfully achieve new skills like making cheese, salami, wine, becoming an artist, craftsman or teacher gives them the self confidence they need to recognize their value. They are valued there, truly valued, no pretense.

Mealtime is one of the most important times in San Patrignaon and everyone eats together; one of the largest dining rooms in the world, it is a re-enforcement of the philosophy that although they come in alone, they have become part of a family and will never be alone again.

This video and the San Patrignaon website gives a great overview and some insights into the program, I'm only describing in very general terms what San Patrignaon does for the unloved and unwanted, society's weaker links. Completely self sufficient, there is no need for members to leave until they are ready.

Therefore the program sends healed, willing, skilled, contributor's back into society to flourish and thrive. The success rate of members leaving San Pat is 70% and only 8% ever use drugs again. No government rehabilitation programs have success rates that even come close to 70%. This method, this type of therapeutic community works.

Take a moment a take a look at the San Patrignaon video or website to get a better understanding of the magnitude of the project and power it gives back to the members who have gone through or are going through the program.

the Homeless Crisis: a Reality Check

It's very important to understand how the amazing success of this program could help the world today, in North America specifically. It may shock the rest of the world to know that thousands upon thousands of Americans and Canadians have found themselves homeless as a result of bad economic times and financial crisis.

In 2009 in the USA a reported 658,000 people were homeless, in 2011 a reported 1.6 million children were homeless. How many homeless had not been reported because they have lost the ability to get government services (no home address) so are not monitored by the system?

Here in Canada, the homeless situation is no better; Vancouver has an estimated 2,650 homeless (2011), Toronto has over 5,000 people living outdoors (2009) and Montreal has an estimated 30,000 homeless (2012). These figures leave me speechless. What is going on and why is it not being taken care of?

Tent cities are popping up everywhere and it's no wonder why. With the increasing population of homeless, people are finding ways to survive however they can. Where can they go? Tents are better than doorways, there may be safety in numbers, but who knows...

It's obvious there is a crisis, a homeless crisis, right here in our own front yards and we're not standing up demanding action; focused, constructive, long term action be taken by our governments to take care of yesterday's tax payers.

Why is money being wasted on war and marketing propaganda instead of being spent on putting taxpayers back into homes and getting them working again?

Imagine if the money was put into therapeutic working farm communities to help give people who have been living on the streets a home and an opportunity to become re-established? People would learn a very clean lifestyle and walk away sharing it. Farms that were potentially at risk could be secured and nourished. An addict may walk in but a grounded loved human would walk out.

a Solution to a World Probelm

a model for the rest of the world
a model for the rest of the world | Source

Your Say

Do you think places like San Patrignaon should be set up to help the homeless in other countries?

See results

Cost Effective

Economically speaking, supporting programs like these is far more cost effective than ignoring the problem of homelessness.

Taking no government funding, half the money comes from Corporate sponsors and public donations, the other half of the operating costs come from the sale and production of a variety of products such as gourmet foods, cheese, world class wines and a bicycle that is apparently top notch, for example.

A program that puts healthy people back into the workforce in four years should be be noticed. San Patrignaon is an outstanding model to follow, and although they may be the masters at it, an establishment that follows it's fundamentals should have the same success rate.

So as this model appears in the rest of the world I urge us all to support this healthy cost effective method of helping our neighbours.

© eye say 2012


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    • eye say profile image

      eye say 6 years ago from Canada

      Rachel; if we could all take care of each other the way they do there, what a wonderful world it would really be...

      thanks for your input.

    • profile image

      Rachel 6 years ago


      Wow! What a great proven example of the answer to homelessness and addiction. And no governement funding, not that it surprises me. Just love, compassion and kindness.


    • eye say profile image

      eye say 6 years ago from Canada

      thanks Deborah, it's a cause close to my heart and I honestly believe these types of therapeutic communities should be put up near every large city worldwide.

      Thank you for taking the time to read.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this is a horrible problem with all the money we have here in the states or anywhere else in this world we need to use it to help these people.

      Blessing to you for writing this

      Voted up