Vittoria Tenaglia, Giovanni Raulli
The first time I was in Casa Arcobaleno (Rainbow House), it was raining in Milan as it hadn’t in months. It was another time, another world – a pandemic was approaching that would change the world forever. Giovanni was waiting for me at the door, together with Lara, Fabiana and Marina. The table had been set for an afternoon snack, with Lara’s homemade cake, fruit juice and coke. I remember experiencing an unexpected feeling of welcome and warmth, an unexpected sense of familiarity: after all it was our first meeting! But it was as if we had known each other forever. So, let’s try to explain what Casa Arcobaleno really is; indeed, let’s ask those who – every day and by any means possible – work passionately to consolidate this place as the backbone of the LGBT+ community. Giovanni Raulli is the Area Director of the non-profit Spazio Aperto Servizi, a cooperative that for over 25 years has been committed to giving a voice to and meeting people’s needs, building tailor-made paths and solutions together. And Casa Arcobaleno is a perfect example of this.
Giovanni, tell us about the history and mission of Casa Arcobaleno.
Casa Arcobaleno is the first apartment in Milan and Lombardy that welcomes young men and women who experience discrimination from their families of origin because of their sexual orientation or due to the transition process they have begun. It is a protected environment for all those who, after coming out, find themselves alone, without a home and without a family. This project was born because of the stories we heard, especially in Casa Jannacci, the homeless shelter of the Municipality of Milan that we have been managing since 2018: among the many requests for help, there were also those of young gay or transsexual people. Listening to the stories of these young people, we immediately understood that we had to do something and think of an ad hoc path, one that would be welcoming and help people who were starting over. The goal of Casa Arcobaleno is precisely this: to welcome these young people and offer them a roof, a place where they can feel “at home” and from there begin a personalised project to achieve economic independence and therefore autonomy. Their families, which should be a safe haven, do not accept them for who they are. They then find themselves alone and disoriented, with a great emotional void, sometimes crushed by a sense of guilt that shouldn’t exist. We therefore provide them with a multidisciplinary, mixed team (made up of both heterosexual and homosexual individuals) that provides educational, psychological and legal support, if necessary. It is important that young people feel welcomed and understood so they can regain their self-confidence, a fundamental premise for beginning the process of starting over.
What are the most important results you have achieved so far?
Casa Arcobaleno for us immediately represented a new challenge that we faced with enthusiasm and determination, and we are proud to have given substance to a dream: to give young people who are unjustly discriminated against because of their sexual orientation the opportunity to be themselves and to follow their own path in life. From the beginning we had the Municipality of Milan at our side, which launched this project with us during Pride 2019. All this would not have been possible without the support of Diana de Marchi, President of the Commission for Equal Opportunities and Civil Rights, Miriam Pasqui, Head of the Rights and Serious Marginalisation Unit, and by Pierfrancesco Majorino, who was councillor for Social and Housing Policies when Casa Arcobaleno was born: our thanks go to them for believing in this project right from the start, helping us to transform it and always remaining by our side. Since the opening of Casa Arcobaleno, we have welcomed people and provided psychological support first, to help them deal with their personal history and the experience of being abandoned, as well as to help them manage their relationships with their families of origin, with whom they sought to find a channel for dialogue. Subsequently, our support to help them gain economic and social autonomy began through professional training courses and job placements, trying to find the right way to go based on each individual’s wishes. The educators, who support them by starting everyday life, from the little things, such as shopping, cleaning and tidying up the house, cooking, are at their side every day. There are two people who have already left Casa Arcobaleno with a job and therefore with the opportunity to independently resume their lives.
What challenges and goals have you set yourselves for the near future and how can companies – and each of us in general – help you achieve them?
Our desire is to consolidate and expand the support network that has been created since the start of the project: there are many people who have offered us their support and have concretely contributed with a donation. In addition to private citizens, help has also come from associations in the LGBT world and beyond, and from large companies such as Etro, which chose to celebrate Pride Month 2020 by donating 20% of the sales of the Pegaso Pride Bag to Casa Arcobaleno. In the construction of work autonomy paths, in particular, we have found a great ally in Google Italy, which has shared its time and skills with us on several occasions. In the middle of the lockdown, Google made the necessary technology and the support of its digital professionals available to the inhabitants of Casa Arcobaleno, organising a series of videoconference meetings designed especially for them, on various topics: from the construction of an effective curriculum vitae to how to mindfully use the internet and social networks. This was an important contribution to their training and growth. The plans are already here: we are now ready to open the second Casa Arcobaleno and we hope that this network of generosity will continue to grow for many to continue the path of rights. Casa Arcobaleno is a reality, a certainty. The dream is that one day there will be no one to ask for a bed in Casa Arcobaleno.