A tangible example of the synergy between the public, private and third sectors, Caritas Ambrosiana’s new day center for the homeless has been created to provide an innovative and effective response to situations of social fragility.
Opened on Tuesday, June 15 beneath the train platforms of Milan’s Central Station, at Via Sammartini 116, the “Antonio Bassanini and Alessandra Tremontani” multi-functional center was created thanks to the collaboration between Caritas Ambrosiana, the Italian Railways Network Gruppo FS Italiane, Enel Cuore, Fondazione Cariplo and the Bassanini family.
The new center will give people facing homelessness the chance to take time out from the stresses of life on the streets. Open to guests of the Caritas Shelter, the homeless hostel located right next door, the day center will also be open to anyone living on the margins of society – without any distinction based on gender or nationality – who would like to spend a few hours of the day in a comfortable and peaceful environment.
“From a secular perspective, homeless people should be acknowledged for what they are: citizens. It is a city’s duty to create havens of solidarity and support for them,” stated Luciano Gualzetti, Director of Caritas Ambrosiana.
We responded to this appeal by supporting the project, which will offer essential services to the homeless. “The creation of Caritas Ambrosiana’s new day center is a tangible example of what can be achieved when the third sector, public institutions and private companies join forces to provide an innovative and effective response to social vulnerabilities,” commented Michele Crisostomo, Chairman of Enel and Enel Cuore. “The new center is designed not only to provide practical support to those in need, but also to disrupt their isolation in such a way that, through inclusion and participation, they can begin to rediscover their dignity as people. Enel Cuore is committed to ensuring that there are more and more initiatives like this across the county. As we restart after the long months of the pandemic, we must not lose sight of the centrality of people, of all people, in the knowledge that the recovery can only be considered complete if it is able to reconnect society’s broken links, precisely where economic and social disadvantages hit the hardest.”
The center, which spans almost 400 square meters, was created inside a railway tunnel that was previously used for storage before falling into disuse. The renovation works made it possible to create spaces suitable for various activities. Beneath the vaulted ceiling of the original structure, two large multi-purpose spaces now lead onto a dining room, laundry, washrooms and offices. Guests will be able to come here to have breakfast, take a shower, and wash and iron their clothes. But they will also have the chance to stay and read the newspaper, watch a film or take part in one of the many workshops on offer, ranging from theatre to pottery and IT.
Taking care of yourself, from personal hygiene to nutrition, and taking back control of aspects of normal life are the priorities that the center promotes, because regaining confidence, getting into a regular daily routine and rediscovering one’s skills and abilities are preconditions for any journey of reintegration into society and the world of employment. The service will be managed by a team of five part-time operators and a group of volunteers.
The center will be open to the entire city and will also host activities for local residents and the elderly in particular. A first sign of this openness is the decision by Radio Piazzetta, the web-radio station for people living on the streets, to move its headquarters to the new center. Indeed, a recording studio has already been set up in one of the rooms, where the broadcasters can produce their weekly program: a space for self-expression which also provides useful information for those on the margins of society, where homeless people can share details about soup kitchens, shelters and opportunities in the city.