I have been Home to Italy for only three weeks this year. But I am still targeted as a tourist even if I do not speak and carry my shopping bag. But I am targeted by the homeless and those asking for money.
Perhaps I notice them more this year since I am traveling in November and there are not as many tourists
walking the miles of lovely streets and alleys.
But after saying no or nothing endlessly over the past weeks it struck me yesterday that the homeless, beggars, street beggars and disabled asking for money often try to out do each other with their pleas or needs. But watching others (including myself) pass by without taking any notice, the needy could be exhibits in a human zoo. The more unusual or unique zoo resident gets more attention.
The idea of a human zoo stuck me with such force that at once I felt the Italian Catholic guilt heavy on my back. It would be impossible to give to all of them and if you say no they do not harass or press their case. But I saw a server at one of the cafes today push a “Gypsy” away from the entrance. I don’t know what the woman was asking the patrons for. She was eating a paninni or a sandwich so it was not for food. But the emotional brutality of the pushing (not physical) was a shock.
I wonder if Italy has shelters or food banks for the needy. Does the church help them? There are enough churches in each town to cover the small town in New Jersey I live in when I am not Home to Italy. When the tourists leave, who will care for the human zoo?