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The right to a home

   

As the vast programme of council-house building reached full swing, the city was faced with a housing crisis fuelled by eviction orders and a shortage of dwellings. After seeing his request denied for evictions to be staggered in order to ease the crisis, La Pira asked landlords to rent a number of vacant dwellings to the municipality. Seeing his request rejected again, he ordered the dwellings to be requisitioned on the basis of a law of 1865 – discovered with the help of his friend the magistrate Gian Paolo Meucci – which empowered a mayor to requisition dwellings when faced with serious reasons of health or of public order .

The move naturally unleashed enormous disagreement to which La Pira responded with an impassioned speech  in the City Council. In response to the court cases brought on the issue (all subsequently quashed for insubstantiality) La Pira wrote an open letter to Ettore Bernabei, the editor of “Giornale del Mattino saying “Am I to be afraid of these penal accusations which have no legal, let alone moral, basis, or am I to press on with renewed vigour to defend the poor and homeless and unemployed? … A mayor who for fear of the rich and powerful abandons the poor – the evicted, the dismissed, the unemployed and so on – is like a shepherd who abandons his flock for fear of the wolf”.

He also wrote in these same terms to the Pope