Located right next to St. Peter’s Square, the breathtaking 19th-century palace called Palazzo Migliori had the potential of becoming a luxurious hotel for rich patrons. Thousands of tourists walk in to hear sermons at the Vatican and would pay hundreds of dollars for such a prime location. However, Pope Francis had other plans. The establishment has been converted into a shelter for the homeless. The original name of the palace came from the family that donated it to the Roman Catholic Church. But now it has been rechristened as the “Palace for the Poor”.
The place was occupied by a group of religious women who vacated it in 2019. For 70 years, the Calasanziane order has made use of the palace to help young single mothers. They have now shifted to another location. The palace was renovated in November and opened its doors to the homeless. The Pope blessed the palace just ahead of World Day of the Poor. The “Palace for the Poor” has 16 bedrooms which can accommodate up to 50 homeless men and women.
Image: Claudio Lavanga / NBC News
One of the people to benefit from the shelter is Mario Brezza. This 53-year-old has an amputated leg because of his circulatory disease and now lives on a £230 monthly disability allowance. He used to feel like an animal at a crowded stable in the previous dormitories but thanks to the personal bed and bathroom, he feels at home. There are volunteers who serve fresh and hot meals every day.
Sharon Christner, a 23-year-old researcher from Pennsylvania visited the place to study the lives of the homeless and the social issues surrounding them. She volunteered to serve the people and believes it is really special as the whole idea behind it is that beauty heals. She thinks that if the authorities decided to rent the palace out, they would make a lot of money that they could then donate. However, she is touched by the fact that the project is not merely about maximizing profit but about healing in general.
A member of the Sant’Egidio Community, Carlo Santoro, called the palace a “real paradox.” He is a part of the Catholic association that breathes life into many charitable projects including the “Palace for the Poor”. According to Santoro, the stunning abode is now home to those who did not even have a house a couple of months ago.
Back in 2016, Pope Francis, as a part of the special mass for the homeless, had criticized the treatment that the poorest in society receive. His decision to open up the 19th-century palace for the homeless where they can eat, learn, and sleep, stands true to his vision.