From 31 May 2016 to August 2017, Saint Anthony’s Church in the Gianchette neighbourhood provided a safe place for those who had been evacuated by the police from the informal camps built along the river Roja. Initially, the number of people housed in the church was about 200/300, a number that was destined to grow to a disproportionately large extent. The vital role of the church in filling the institutional vacuum was informally recognised by all; not only the Mayor but also the security forces, who were used to informing migrants in need about the presence of the Church managed by Don Rito (interview with a Caritas Doctor).
During the period of migrant support activity, the interior of the church was completely readapted to respond to the new function of welcoming; a separate area was created for women and children, another one for free medical visits offered by Caritas and a midwife of Médecins Sans Frontières.
However, some neighbours never ceased their complaints, so much so that a committee was set up with the aim of restorng “normality” in the Gianchette neighbourhood and its church (Interview with the Committee Chairman Gianchette). The Church of the Gianchette was cleared out in July 2016. The ordinance initially concerned men only, but, starting in August 2017 – after gaining a zone dedicated to women and unaccompanied minors in the Roja Camp – the church has been closed to all categories of migrants.