Housing is not a privilege is a collaborative photographic project by Alys.theWitch and Ester Di Bona That explores the traces and spaces of homelessness in Palermo, Sicily. The intent is to question the application of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services; he also has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or in any other case of lack of livelihood due to circumstances beyond his control.”
Alys and Ester spent their time taking pictures at night and distributing basic necessities such as drinking water, soap, food, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc., aware that it would not be right to take pictures, even if for reporting purposes, and leave nothing in return.
They decided to tell of a Palermo that is not shown to tourists, a reality hidden in the dark corners of a centuries-old city, far from the bourgeois eyes of those who do not want to see it.
This collaborative photographic practice wants to be a reflection against the unbridled individualism that characterises our society: we want to highlight it this way, showing as a group what our city hides.
The intention is clearly to denounce a condition experienced by too many people and that exposes especially women and non-binary people to mental vulnerability, but also to violence and rape that are rarely reported, told or documented. This leads the affected person not only to suffer violence, but also not to seek help.
Although the idea exists that the homeless are people from North Africa due to economic migration, it is fair to point out that there are many Palermitans who for various reasons no longer have a home.
Although there are charitable organisations that help these people survive, it would be good for institutions to ask themselves how to avoid situations where a person ends up on the street.
Listening to people and supporting them in times of difficulty is one of the tasks of the democratic institution that, in theory, should provide for the complex needs of a society stratified into social classes with different possibilities and needs.
There are thousands of homeless people in Italy and in Europe. Yet there is no census of the homeless population living on the streets of Italy’s fifth most populous city. And yet there are many houses confiscated from the Mafia that have never been counted and rehoused. What are the institutions waiting for?
We explored the centre of Palermo and were struck by the contradiction of the Kalsa: this quarter is one of Palermo’s oldest quarters, dating back to the period of Islamic rule. Its name derives from the Arabic al-khalisa, ‘the chosen one’, because within it was the fortified citadel of the emir and the seat of his court. One of the entrances to Piazza Kalsa is the Porta dei Greci, the place where the Santa Rosalia float is put on display at the end of the festival dedicated to the city’s patron saint. Right behind the float, under the stone door, homeless people sleep, seeking protection for the night.
Ironic, isn’t it?