Article published by "La Repubblica" on November 15, 2019
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Salvatore, the Italian angel of the homeless in New York: "We don't give money but dignity, food and smiles"
Sicilian, a former hospital manager, then later consultant and a former professor in the university, gave up everything to devote himself to the poor. In 2017 he founded “One City Mission”, the non-profit organization that assists the homeless of the Big Apple
By Liliana Rosano
NEW YORK - The Franciscan spirit in his blood, the vocation to solidarity and charitable activity, have always been in the DNA of Salvatore Snaiderbaur. Sicilian cosmopolitan, former manager in the hospital sector, business consultant and former college professor, Salvatore left teaching, and in 2017 he founded "One City Mission", the no-profit organization that assists the homeless and the beggars of New York.
Born in Rome to Sicilian parents, he returned to the island seven years after his birth. First Catania, then Palermo where he attended high school and graduated in Law. Summers between Pachino and Marzamemi, work in Milan, Pittsburgh and Palermo's Ismett.
America comes not by chance but by destiny. "I win the green card in the lottery and during a mission with a delegation of entrepreneurs, I meet a priest who involves me in a series of projects for Italian immigrants.".
For Salvatore it is the beginning of a new chapter. It is the poor of the Big Apple who interests him, less the managerial career. Struck on the way to the Franciscans of the Bronx, volunteer work begins in homeless shelters, in what still remains a difficult area of New York. But One City Mission does not want to be an association that carries out social and religious services. The project has a different nature and objectives.
"We don't give money but we give human dignity, friendship, food, through smiles, listening, dialogue,” - explains Salvatore himself. “We want to establish a human contact that these people have lost. It all starts with a natural gesture that we have forgotten, the most difficult: looking into their eyes. ”. He dedicates over thirty-six hours a week to this work, now almost full-time. From his home he prepares sixty meals every Saturday and runs with a team of volunteers in areas of high concentration of the homeless: Penn Station, Wall Street, Grand Central.
Photos By Renato Zacchia
One City Mission does not have an office but a small warehouse in a convent of cloistered nuns in Brooklyn and goes on thanks to the growing volunteers and donations that come from the generosity of the people. The road is the heart of the mission. And on the street there were many encounters that changed Salvatore's life. "Like when I came across a lady who for the New York police has been missing since she was a child, or the meeting with a woman on Wall Street that I discovered to be a very cultured and educated person." There are those who first let themselves go completely and then began to love each other more, to decide to seek treatment. There are no stories of total redemption but of progress, of recovery of dignity. "Some of them never want to leave the street. One City Mission does not seek to change these people but is there to support them .”.
According to the latest census of the city of New York, in the Big Apple there are 77 thousand homeless, 40 percent more live on the street, compared to last year. For Salvatore it is above all women without children who have the most difficulties. "I do not claim to solve the homeless problem,” he comments, “but I want to change the conscience of those who approach these people every day. We can no longer ignore them and pretend nothing happened. So we need to go back to what we do in small towns: we look at each other and say hello. The wall of indifference falls like this. Listening, talking with these people, giving them back the awareness that they still exist as human beings, it is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.".
Salvatore, has an enlightened spirit, a formation that has always been nourished by Christian values and an encounter with people like Don Giussani in Milan, Jesuit Father Boyle and Biagio Conte in Palermo. Behind his surname, which originates in the Albanian lineage of the Sicilian town of Palazzo Adriano, there is an interesting story. "My great-great-grandfather, a certain Nicolò Snaiderbaur, joined the expedition of the thousand. Garibaldi gave him a portrait with a dedication and a cigar to signify that he was a man by now.".
In less than two years, One City Mission has grown into volunteers and assisted people. Salvatore is a point of reference for the homeless in New York who appreciate his baked pasta and call it for emergencies even in the middle of the night. "If the time comes to give a more organic structure to this association, my role will always remain that of those who help people on the street, without receiving a salary. This project is not like to run a company, there are things that are unpredictable and intangible. We are faced with the mystery of life.".
That of the homeless is the image of the other New York, as opposed to the glamorous and glittering one. "The poor is a mirror where it is difficult to look at ourselves because we see everything that we would never want to see in us.". "We must look at them with the same tenderness with which we would like to look at ourselves.”