The Beggars Academy is a project from Bressanone-Brixen/IT. It received a special mention in the frame of the Alpine Pluralism Award 2018.

The Beggar Academy assumes that begging is a job, albeit at the lowest level. This view alone helps to perceive beggars not as a burden, but as part of society. The Beggar Academy prepares them for the job market. With a language course, it helps them acquire additional competences. The network of the volunteers and the sponsoring organization also helps to integrate the beggars step by step into the "normal" labor market.

Many South Tyroleans find begging stressful, humiliating, even disturbing. Many fears and prejudices circulate. The assumption that a "beggar mafia" exists, makes the rounds. Most citizens do not know how to deal with this challenge. The Beggars Academy strives for small, concrete solutions around this issue. Beggars meet every Thursday in the foyer of the Free University of Bolzano in Bressanone with a volunteer of the House of Solidarity (HdS). She explains the rules of begging, gives language lessons, is the contact person for questions, problems and concerns. Afterwards the group usually goes for a coffee. This initiative seeks to facilitate the work of "beggars". The South Tyrolean population is sensitized and helped to feel better in their cities.

Begging is perceived as a big problem. If you ask about the main problem, it turns out that it is usually "aggressive" begging" that is perceived as offensive, not "quiet begging". Even municiaplites are having a hard time with the issue. The fastest answer they find is banning begging. But these bans do not show their effect: Begging does not disappear; the police are overwhelmed with the additional task; penalties issued are not fruitful and only burden additional bureaucracy. The hostile climate that this creates is not conducive either to the citizens or to the image of a hospitable holiday destination. On the other hand, the "beggars" – almost everyone from foreign countries - are at the bottom of our society. For the vast majority begging is not a choice but the only way to survive.

Which are the key objectives of this measure?
1. Take the fears of the population seriously, raise understanding, reduce fears.

2. Show sympathetic alternatives to begging prohibitions, which have a lasting positive effect on the coexistence in the city and also facilitate the work of law enforcement.

3. Position the community as an innovative, hospitable place with a heart.

4. Help the "beggars" to do their job better. Demonstrate them the laws, rules and norms of their new home.

5. Offer beggars concrete help to improve their situation.

Helping a beggar in all religions is the ultimate sign of charity and compassion. It is one of the most difficult things for human beings, to welcome begging people. Creating this is lived welcoming strategy and culture. Our society has not yet completed this step. Our society thinks like Friedrich Nietzsche: "Beggars should be abolished altogether! Verily, one is annoyed to give them, and is annoyed not to give them. "For the Beggar Academy, it is important not to give up and keep going.

Because constant dripping wears away the stone.

Link to website of the House of Solidarity:
http://www.hds.bz.it

Photo:Elda with her students
Copyright: Haus of Solidarity