An old Italian tradition of conjuring fictional streets helps homeless people today

Originally published at: An old Italian tradition of conjuring fictional streets helps homeless people today | Boing Boing


What a picaresque nation :heart_eyes_cat:


I’d heard of this before. It made me wonder if there was something similar here for people with no fixed address. Not necessarily the homeless, but RV nomads, migrant workers, etc.


There are a number of “virtual mailbox services” that exist for this purpose. I’ve not personally used them, but I first ran into this when a friend who was going out of the country rented his condo to a woman for 6 months. Her IL Driver’s License listed her “address” as a UPS (not USPS) box in Wilmette, IL. This was a few years ago and might not fly today but I was still surprised to see it used as a “domicile” address.


There is in certain places within the US. Because I do business, bank, and practically everything except sleep in San Diego, the DMV puts my PO box listing and address on my driver’s license as if it were a home address, and when authorities run the license it comes up with the designation “homeless”.

It’s very helpful, and allows me access to some services like simply having a debit card or being able to vote when needed without the typical “othering” one gets when trying to take care of basic needs.


I can certainly see the logic of fabricating addresses for the immediate purpose of having something to feed into a process that assumes that addresses will be available; but I’m a little confused on how the fictitious addresses work in cases where the address actually gets used; to deliver mail or the like.

Are the fictitious addresses mapped to something analogous to PO boxes? Does this issue not actually come up very often because the address requirement is vestigial and the actual hard requirements have moved to phone numbers or electronic document delivery?

1 Like

For a while I used my PO Box on my driver’s license in GA, but they tightened that loop up within the past 10 years.

Some UPS or virtual mail stores use the actual store street address, so your licence/etc. could show as “215 Commercial Blvd, #4673” and nobody would be the wiser.


This confuses me, too. Having a physical address to accept my mail is one of the most crucial things I have ever needed. :man_shrugging:

1 Like

I don’t think they are meant for postal delivery. It’s just a shorthand way to register their address for official purposes, a legal fiction. As long as you work in the system, you know what the streets mean and you will never try to send a letter to them.

It’s a bit like listing an unknown person as John Doe in the US: everyone working in the system knows what that means, but from the outside it is totally wild. Why not just write “Unknown Person”, rather than using a name like that? If you didn’t know the system, you might assume this is their real name but in reality nobody does. I assume it’s the same in the Italian civil service.

1 Like

One soup kitchen in my town offers this free service to homeless people, so they too have an address in order to access services & vote.


I think that Mr. Doe is really an example of the question I had in mind: “John Doe” doesn’t generally cause confusion, because it’s a well known shorthand; but whenever you see that name it’s very likely because it’s a problem that the person is unknown and someone is making inquiries(whether it’s a civil suit against a bunch of Does whose identities are to be revealed in discovery; or poor old John ending up at the coroner’s under murky circumstances). It isn’t really used in cases where someone’s identity is unknown but that’s not really relevant(John Doe does not generally photobomb tourists; nor do transit authorities talk about how many Does/hour their subway systems are capable of handling).

If the assumption that of course people who are people have fixed addresses is purely an archaism then addresses that are legal fictions would do the job just fine; and ones that follow well known patterns so as not to be mistaken for real addresses would be preferred; but if The Man wants your address because sometimes he needs to mail you something it’s not immediately obvious(though certainly solvable in a number of possible ways) how a syntactically valid but fake address is to be handled.

1 Like

For a long while I kept my home life and work life entirely separate. I used my work address as my home address for my employee file. That was fine until I stopped going to the office.


One thing that works sometimes is having mail sent to your local post office c/o “General Delivery”. You pick it up over the counter.


Yes, that works for some, but I’m an artist. I can work wherever I am. Still, I do my “business” out of San Diego, such as accepting payments by check or mailing out product. I feel I have to keep it this way for tax reporting purposes.


Yes, anytime a physical place is needed it is essentially using a trusted nominee’s address. Another example might be an established family member’s place. My young adult kids used our address while they bounced around schools and rental places and extended travelling. Bonus: the stability looks good on credit applications.


I don’t see how this is different from any other country where people who don’t want their real address known (or don’t have one) make up a fake address (123 Main Street, anyone?).

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.