ITALY: New Salesian program creates safety networks to connect with homeless, migrant youth in city train stations
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been challenged by the number of migrants and other unaccompanied youth looking for shelter, support and work in cities across Italy. For unaccompanied foreign minors, Salesian missionaries launched 58 projects, including first- and second-level reception centers, Italian language courses, job placement, legal assistance and more. These add-on services reached 4,068 migrant youth. This involved not only welcoming, but also accompanying and cultural inclusion that favored processes of inter-religious dialogue.
Another project, “I care about you,” was launched by Salesian missionaries in Rome to reach out to young migrants and other homeless youth who gravitate around the central train stations of the Italian metropolitan areas. Every day these youth are at risk of becoming involved in criminal activities or being sexually exploited. Salesian missionaries estimate that there are close to 5,000 of these invisible children. They migrated from the world’s poorest countries and arrived or were left alone once in Italy. They lack access to showers, bathrooms, food, shelter and clothing.
The Salesian project aims to connect with these youth, build their trust, and try to reintegrate them into society through reception and support. The activities, sustained thanks to the Intesa San Paolo charitable fund, are taking place in Turin, Naples and Catania in the neighborhoods adjacent to the cities’ train stations. A network composed of street educators, psychologists and volunteers greet the children and offer support and protection. Once in the program, children are offered shelter and their basic needs while also given the opportunity to take an Italian language course, receive legal assistance, acquire professional skills and find stable employment.
“With the project we aim to empower these young people, supporting them, without forcing them to take the decision to leave anonymity and the streets behind,” explains Fr. Giovanni d’Andrea, president of Salesians for Social Welfare. “We want kids to decide to come to the reception facilities, increase their confidence and become capable of facing their own story.”
Salesian missionaries working in Italy with the Salesians of Social Welfare, also known as the SCS/CNOS Federation, have been working to promote a better quality of life for disadvantaged youth for 24 years. In 2016, close to 9,000 at-risk youth received educational and social development services through Salesian programs throughout Italy under this organization’s direction.
The primary recipients of this support are minors and youth who are in situations of social vulnerability, including those under the care of Italy’s child protection system. Many of these youth engaged in Salesian programs, consisting of family child care homes and community housing, childcare centers for academic support, youth groups for young people aged 18 and over, and foster parents’ networks.
Italy, Europe’s third-largest economy, has close to 2 million children living in poverty, according to UNICEF. The poverty rate has risen in the wake of Europe’s economic crisis. Unemployment is at its highest level since the late 1970s, with the overall jobless rate at 12.5 percent and youth unemployment as high as 41 percent.
Salesian programs across Italy help youth who are unable to attend school and others who drop out to work at the few jobs available to them. A growing number of children work as laborers on farms and others have turned to the sex trade to help support their families. Those in poverty often live without adequate shelter, hot water, regular meals and health care. According to UNICEF, a growing number of youth are living away from their families in temporary shelters and within government and charity programs because of inadequate support from or neglect by their families. Salesian programs work to combat these challenges by providing shelter, nutrition, education and workforce development services for youth in need.
UNICEF – Italy Poverty