“More options instead of emptiness”. The suburban children in the center



The challenge of repairing relationships and interests between those who grow up illegally. And the problem does not only concern foreigners: “The crux is the absence of proposals involving young people”

Piazza Rosa, Corvetto Desert. Shortly after dinner, three children play with a dog in the flower beds, dried out by the hot Milanese July sun, yes and no they will be 8 years old: no adults around, “because that’s how it works here, the little ones go out into the street if everything’s going well, so keep an eye on the balcony, otherwise they’re already alone at that age,’ says the bartender on the corner.

The balconies are the public housing, a crossroads between humanity and ethnic groups: Via Bolla – the scene in the early summer of the maxi brawl between squatters – is on the opposite side of the metropolis, repeat the ladies in line for the bakery. that “not here, something like this could never happen here.” And yet illegality is the order of the day, frequent violence, the apartments, often dilapidated, are largely occupied, “the ones that are emptied because someone ends up in prison, are reoccupied, and occupied again.” The law is about making your own business, without looking like the grandmother who lives at “Scala San Vittore”: “They call it that because all the other condominiums are under house arrest”. It was the elderly who were the problem. On the outskirts of Milan – and not only Milan – the black hole is the lonely children who alone (invisible at first, then resigned, finally angry and violent) grow up.

The rampart at the abyss is called the cooperative “La Strada”, a door that is always open on via Piazzetta, next to a large mural. “When you can’t see the street, you can find your way,” he says, and he wants to sound loud like a scream in the neighborhoods that have all been forgotten. “Because every time a boy comes in here and shows up, we meet a boy who’s already lost,” says general manager Paolo Larghi. The reassuring narrative of “that’s how much they are all foreigners” crumbles in front of the numbers: half of the young people cared for in the day center (about seventy, reported by the social services or by the Penal Code) are very Italian, the other half belong to families, who have arrived in our country for two or three generations. Foreigners only by surname or skin color: the utterly useless things that certain politics focus on when the problems to be faced are completely different. «First of all to offer them opportunities – explains the president of the cooperative, Gilberto Sbaraini -. They never found them, and in time they got used to not looking for them.

Take the lonely children to the streets to play, make them grow up in fragile and very poor families, in the law of widespread (and completely unchallenged) illegality, send them to the neighborhood school, where the children in the next step and the next to still go, where they live the same fragile and poor families, where the same law dominates and where the strongest always wins (that is, the one who steals, trades, commits crimes): «Who and what can they identify with on their path of growth? In those like them – continues Paolo Larghi -, those who belong to their scale, to their culture, if they are foreigners to their ethnic group ». And here are the gangs, here is the question of “belonging”, which in the suburbs all too often means responding to the only suggestion you are called to: the street, indeed. Chopped on the suspensions at school, the herd, the first stunts, then down, down, along the inclined plane that leads everyone to the same path: “The averages faced dully and passed in 4 or even 5 years, high school never started or dropped out on second term. At 16 they are suspended out of thin air, for a year or two they manage, then they look for a job, often insecure and underpaid because they lack skills. This is the typical identikit of the Corvetto teenager ».

At “Strada” you try the opposite way. The children – who are forced to come to the center two to four times a week, depending on the indications of the offer – are thrown into a healthy group situation where they can share experiences that are completely new to them: coordinate in a group activity, participate in a workshop, study and read all under the guidance of an educator. And again: go to a museum, take a trip out of town, imagine a job that isn’t necessarily a mechanic. It seems like a banal recipe, for some it amounts to a revolution: «Our task is to make certain reference points stable – Larghi continues -. Having fixed appointments, situations that always repeat the same, with the same rules, is already disturbing for these teenagers. In some cases, they have time to discover for the first time that they are capable of doing something ».

The story of Said comes to mind, who had arrived alone on a boat at the age of 12: bouncing from community to community, from foster home to foster family, then landing in the Corvetto for an assisted journey. “We followed him up to middle school, during his internship he discovered a passion for cooking, especially for sweets.” Today, Said works in one of the most famous patisseries in the city center and comes back here from time to time to say thank you. Its success is the spring to continue despite the failures, which are unfortunately many and often also dictated by the absurd laws of the bureaucracy: accompanying difficult youngsters with professional educators on dedicated paths has a negligible cost compared to (not only financial) imprisonment. , recovery communities or neuropsychiatric wards increasingly crowded with teenagers in hospitals, “but these costs, all prevention, institutions often choose not to pay” explains Sbaraini. He considers it the great contrast of our time and Milan primarily: «A city that gets a facelift, but does not cure its tumours», i.e. the forgotten suburbs. It thus happens that children choose to save: two days at the day center instead of four, only one home educational intervention per week (the cooperative also offers this service, intended for younger children at the center of problematic situations), when they have to follow a child and accompanying his family would take at least three. And that would only be the beginning.

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