March 6, 2021

River opens its doors to the homeless on the coldest night of the year in Buenos Aires | Society

In the first two weeks of winter in Argentina, five people have died of cold in the street. One of them was Sergio Zacarías, 52, who was found dead on Monday five blocks from Plaza de Mayo, the heart of Buenos Aires. His body, covered only with cardboard and a frayed sweater, could not withstand a night with a minimum of five degrees and an icy wind. This Wednesday, when at sunset the thermometers went down again, to the usual shelters for homeless people was added an unusual one: the football club River Plate. The Monumental opened its doors to give shelter to young people, elderly people and families with children who came there. They obtained blankets, warm clothes, a warm dish and a place to sleep sheltered from the cold on this freezing night.

Daiana Montalbo worked as a dishwasher in the kitchen of a restaurant that closed almost a year ago and never found a job again. Shortly after, after receiving a new beating from his partner, he left the family home with his daughter and they began to live in the street, near the Retiro station, one of the busiest in Buenos Aires. Two days ago his few belongings were stolen, including the blanket that was covered at night, and therefore did not hesitate to cross the city with a friend to learn the call made by River and the Red Solidaria citizen group. "I got two blankets, clothes for my daughter, for me and slippers," says Montalbo with a big smile while pointing with his thin hand a huge pile of donations that never stops growing.

People in a street situation look for clothes with which to shelter between the donations received by River.

People in a street situation look for clothes with which to shelter between the donations received by River.

The economic crisis in Argentina It has triggered the number of homeless people in the big cities of the country. In Buenos Aires, of the 850 registered in 2016, it has risen to 1,146 in 2019, according to the latest official figures. The unofficial ones speak of triple. "There has to be nobody on the street," says Juan Carr, owner of Red Solidaria, which for 12 years has been promoting the Cold Zero campaign to protect people who live on the streets during the winter. "This figure of five deaths in eleven days was not expected and we saw that we had to do something," says Carr about the origin of the joint initiative with River.

"I filled the bags with blankets for grandparents who live on the same street as me but can not move up here," says Santiago Amestoy, who proudly wears a new Flintstones jacket and has put on a second pair of pants on top of the one he wore. "Life on the street is not easy, I dream of a job and a house to live with my children," he adds. Near him, seven children devour the pizza that a neighbor approached while his father, Javier Arias, helps to align the tables for the big collective dinner: a stew of rice with meat. There are about 70 servings, which disappear at full speed.

"Colder inside"

The classic football rivalry between River and Boca, the two great clubs in Argentina, slipped into whatsapp groups and social networks as the call went viral. "Do not go, it's cooler inside," many xeneizes warned, while the millionaires proudly pointed out that River had once again won Boca.

The largest of Arias' children's eyes sparkle when they learn of the surprise that will come later: a guided tour of the River Plate Museum, champion of America after winning his historic rival, Boca Juniors, in the final agony of the Libertadores. "Hold River", shouts in unison with a couple of brothers as they run around the place.

"Beyond my sympathy for Club Atlético River Plate I hope that this initiative will be extended to all football clubs and other sports activities so that there is more containment and help for people who have nothing," says Arias. It is a widespread opinion also among those who come to deliver donations. This is the case of Leonardo, who gives the volunteers two bags full of warm clothes: "Here the colors do not matter, if one is from River, from Boca, from Independiente or San Lorenzo." The only thing that matters is the solidarity of the people Argentinian".

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