Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem of
Rhodes and of Malta


Making an effort not to lose them

Making an effort not to lose them

Volunteers among drug-addicts in the Rogoredo “bosco”

The “bosco” or wood of Rogoredo is one of the largest open-air drug market places in northern Italy, a “hub of iniquity and desperation that pulls in hundreds of young people,” as vividly described by one of the 25 volunteers from the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps (CISOM), working since some months in this park on the southern edge of Milan.

The project was created as an extension of the work carried out with the homeless, explains lawyer Carlo Settembrini Sparavieri Trabucchi, head of the Milan CISOM, under the initiative promoted by the Milan Prefettura and in close cooperation with drug rehabilitation centres. Every Wednesday evening the volunteers, with the support of the latter, are there in front of the Rogoredo railway station with their orange uniforms and their stall to distribute hot tea and food, “to feed them, clean them and listen to them”. It’s the first step towards connecting with them, to “creating a link”, before proposing they leave the “bosco” to register in the detox centre not far from here in Lambrate.

“This is a situation completely different from that of the homeless,” explains Annabella, a volunteer who has been taking part in this initiative since the beginning, “unlike the homeless, drug addicts, of whom some 30% are women, do not have points of reference such as soup kitchens or shelters. We act as bridges,” says Annabella, who describes an experience that is “very involving for us and useful for them. They realise there is now a constant presence that is watching over them. I recognize them, they recognise me, they look for us, they call us ‘those with the uniform and the cross’. We are there every Wednesday from 9 to 12 pm.”

The project establishes a perfect coordination between the experience of CISOM’s street units and detox centres with drug-addiction professionals. To date some forty people have left the “bosco” to start a detox programme and this is a very important first step. “Now I am focussing on a 28-year-old woman who is four months pregnant,” Annabella concludes, “we text each other every two days or so, and I hope I won’t lose her.”