Milan moves to protect the homeless

Over 2,700 beds in welcome centres.

As temperatures plunge and rain turns more frequent, Milan is moving to provide a dry roof for the homeless on the city streets.

Sleeping places for 2,780 – that’s more than double the 2011 figure – should be ready to open on 15 November, distributed among the several homeless centres around the city. The principal shelter, Casa Jannacci in Via Ortles, will have 620 beds available this year, up from last year’s 487.

From 15 November, Milan’s other major help centre at the central railway station will be open until midnight, seven days a week. The 13,500 homeless or needy who turn to its staff each year for help are put in touch with city social services, told where to find a bed for the night and a meal, and where they can take a shower.

There will also be eight daytime shelters, five of them with free access and the other three to accept people sent by the city’s social services. City hall is also seeking to recruit more volunteers among the public, families with a room to spare for somebody in need.

And an emergency line is open on the phone numbers 02 8844 76-45, -46, -47, -48 and -49 where the public can also call in to report incidents of people on the streets in need of help.

With support from non-profit NGOs, associations and cooperatives, Milan will be able to deploy four mobile help units along tram and trolleybus lines, 18 night-time mobile units (two more than in 2015) and two mobile units for immediate medical help – one from the Italian volunteer doctors’ association and one from the Red Cross.

City hall has already started the distribution of “health cards” to all the city’s homeless, containing necessary data about their health, to speed up treatment in case of a medical emergency.

Councillor Pierfrancesco Maran, reporting to the city commission planning the initiatives for the homeless, said the municipality had hoped to use the former Expo base camp in Rho, the former hospital in Garbagnate or the former military hospital in Baggio. He urged the Lombardy regional government, which had refused to open these structures to immigrants, to allow the city to use them for residents who have been evicted because no longer able to pay their rent or mortgage.

Milan has invested €154 million over the past five years for residents’  income support, Maran added, and is expecting a further €8.4 million from central government for this purpose.