One of the most important things we all need – and deserve – is a place to call home. A place we can settle into, spend time with our families, relax, rest, rejuvenate. But simply having a place to call home is not only out of reach for so many here in Silicon Valley, where Cisco has its headquarters, but for so many around the world.
In Europe, homelessness is on the rise. Countries across the continent have seen large increases in the number of people who are homeless. In Italy, the issue takes on big proportions, as well – in 2014 (the last year for which data is available), over 50,000 people were homeless. Four out of ten homeless people in Italy have been living on the streets for more than four years, and 30% of them were young.
Addressing homelessness – and helping those in need – is an imperative for all of us, especially those of us who have the ability to make a difference. At Cisco, we take that imperative close to heart – taking on big challenges and doing what we can to make an impact are core to who we are. In March 2018, we announced our commitment to Destination: Home, a San Jose-based public-private partnership which has demonstrated that providing permanent housing to chronically homeless people gives them the stability they need to change the trajectory of their lives.
We believe strongly in that Housing First approach, which is considered a best practice in solving for homelessness. Housing First prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, coupled with the supportive services needed to help individuals get back on their feet and improve their quality of life.
To further our efforts in making an impact, I am proud that this week we are announcing a commitment of $1 million over four years to support a Housing First pilot in Rome with Comunità di Sant’Egidio, an organization that for 50 years has addressed poverty in Italy and in other countries around the world. Sant’Egidio has a long history of focusing on the homeless and poor, and with their dedication to making a difference, they are an ideal partner for us. We will also work closely with fio.PSD, which manages the Housing First Italia network.
Sant’Egidio will be responsible for providing the housing and supportive services to the homeless individuals, and fio.PSD will provide the appropriate guidelines, training, and monitoring and evaluation to share best practices, and track progress to ensure a successful pilot.
Housing First is gaining traction in Europe and Italy, but the approach has not been tested in Rome. We see our funds as a catalytic investment that will enable two well-established organizations with deep expertise in homelessness to test a new approach and serve as a model for others, ultimately using learnings to replicate and scale the approach throughout Rome.
We are also committed to helping these two partners with a technology investment – our team in Italy will work closely with these two organizations to supply them with the technology they need to speed and scale their operations.
We will also be integrating our Networking Academy training program into Sant’Egidio’s offering of training for the underserved population they serve, and we are committed to helping Sant’Egidio with job training and placement of graduates to jobs in the IT field in Italy. Our Networking Academies play a key role in providing those who seek an education and access the tools and skills they need to find employment, and we are excited to support those who need to get back on their feet get the housing and education support they need.
Lastly, none of these efforts would be possible without the passion of those who want to help, and Cisco has some of the most passionate employees. We have set a company-wide goal that by 2020, we will have 80% of our employees around the world giving time and resources to make a difference, and Italy is committed to being the first country to meet this target. The Cisco Italy team is committing to 5,000 volunteer hours by end of this year. Employees will volunteer their time to efforts across Italy – both skills-based volunteering, with engineers lending a hand to help with tech installations, and through work at shelters.
I am excited to see how our commitment to building bridges between hope and possibility extends through Rome. My hope is that with this commitment, we will see more people gain a home, and the ability to truly better their lives.