People come and go. Many people.
Many can well remember the situation in 2015. All over Europe, many people arrived looking for shelter and safety. In bolzano, too, many were stranded and gathered at the train station. The situation was out of control, the responsible provincial offices were overwhelmed and no one had a concrete plan on how to deal with the situation. So it happened that many people wanted to help the arrivals in this intolerable situation. More and more volunteers at the station started to actively help – that was us, binario 1.
While at the beginning we only distributed tuna and water and gradually got more organised with the other volunteers. We were provided with a room that gave us the space it needed to feed and care for so many people. Because the actual waiting room was closed instead of providing a warm place for the arrivals to rest.
„At the beginning we were not perceived that way because we were all women and had no idea at all, but we learned very quickly how it all works.“ And quickly we were also noticed by the province. We were invited to coordination meetings and started regular meetings for volunteers to get together, exchange ideas and organise.
The years after
Supporting those who stayed here and faults in the system
Although most of the stranded people wanted to continue north, many also stayed in South Tyrol – intentionally or unintentionally. In the years after the big rush, the main concern was to support precisely these people, because the institutional organisations did not have enough capacity, they were outside the „quota“, not allocated by Italy, but had come here on their own. Above all, language courses as well as support in writing CVs and finding a job could have helped the people to gradually gain a foothold in South Tyrol and start a normal life.
In addition, there were always drastic experiences that strongly influenced and inspired future projects and ideas.
For example, we once took donations to a site behind the train station in Bolzano because we were told that people were living there in abandoned trains. We were shocked and deeply disappointed by the conditions we saw. The politicians always gave the impression that everything was working and under control, but we saw that this was not the case at all. One reason for this: the italian system stipulates that asylum seekers with positive asylum decisions have to leave the camps again quite quickly. And many of them ended up on the street.
Especially seeing women with babies and small children on the streets again and again, because there seemed to be no official places in emergency shelters for them, shocked and angered us beyond belief. It finally motivated us to spontaneously and on our own initiative, look for emergency accommodation. The protestant church in Bolzano was one of these first emergency shelters that repeatedtly took in people in absolute need and continues to do so also nowadays.
Through such and similar situations, the idea gradually developed to offer structured and organised sleeping places for people in emergency situations. The idea behind it was basically, on the one hand, to support people people who are not considered and excluded by the system and, on the other hand, to point out the grievances in exactly this system – to show politicians how easy it can be to find more sleeping places in the centre of Bolzano and to make them available to people.
We have made it a point to offer not only a place to sleep , but also guidance, counselling and support. For example, we often worked together with psychologists and doctors.
Ambitious and structured accommodation projects
Through these insights into the ills of Bolzano, we launched more ambitious projects to support people in need through housing, counselling and further education.
We opened a large house in Carducci Street in winter of 2017, generously provided by Heiner Oberrauch, where we were able to offer both short-term accommodation and longer-term rooms for emergencies. This huge project was held by many volunteers and had the goal of getting people to the point where they were self-sufficient. For us it was a huge leap into the deep end, but it worked, it helped many people and we achieved our goal: to show how easy and feasible it can be to give homeless people in Bolzano a future worth living. The house was not meant to be a permanent alternative to other camps – it was a project with a planned end, March of 2019. We wanted to stimulate and inspire the administration in the city and the province to start such a project themselves. Unfortunately without success.
Furthermore, we advised and helped with the documents, were at the Questur every day to help the people there to find their way around the Italian administration and also to assert themselves. We spoke at the social offices in the city and the country, were present in networks for social, health and legal issues and much more. All this was done from our office in Carducci Street.
After we had to give up the house in Carducci Street at the end of 2019, the need for support and accommodation for the more vulnerable was not solved. Frasnelli offered us the Zeilerhof in Gries. We gladly moved into the first floor, initially with women and families. Then only single women lived there and the Dorea project was born. Nowadays the women live in two flats in Haslach and we have a house for families in Blumau.
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