Milan moves to protect homeless as temperatures plummet

Helpline now open 24/7.

As temperatures drop below zero and forecasts show no sign of relief, Milan city hall has intensified measures to protect the homeless sleeping in the open.

Harsh weather has already claimed at least five lives on Milan’s streets this winter, and the municipal social services department has for the first time opened the telephone help line non-stop, seven days a week. Residents are invited to call 02 8844 7646 at any hour to report people spotted sleeping in the open and in need of help.

Around 2,400 homeless people are given a place each night in warm dormitories provided by the city. But councillor Pierfrancesco Marino says Italy’s new security law is expected to cause another wave of up to 800 new street sleepers in the city, putting municipal services under ever increasing pressure.

The city operates a help centre in Via Ferrante Aporti 3, alongside the central railway station. Open seven days a week, the centre provides information on dormitories, residential halls, mobile care units, daytime welcome structures, soup kitchens and free public showers.

The Milan branch of the Italian Red Cross also runs a non-stop operation coordinating the almost 20 non-profit associations and the mobile teams which patrol the city to offer accommodation in the dormitories, warm clothes and hot meals. Several emergency beds are available for the street sleepers who can be persuaded to move indoors without formalities, and register with the help centre on the following morning.