Monumental Stadium of Buenos Aires-based football club River Plate opened its doors Wednesday to the homeless and distributed coats and blankets on what is predicted to be the coldest night of the year in the capital.
In addition to the refuge from the cold, those who needed shelter were also given free access to the River Plate museum, in an initiative of the NGO Red Solidaria in conjunction with the club.
“It is an activity to help them escape the cold tonight and be in the club until the morning, when they will have a good breakfast. We converted the stadium into a large refuge and we plan to do this again. This is first cold wave and three more are expected,” Juan Carr, the head of Red Solidaria told AFP in the Monumental.
Plazas, entrances to train stations, and ATMs are the most common places for homeless people to spend the night. The vast majority are single men and over 20 percent are located in commune 1 of the city.
In a week in which temperatures vacillated between lows of 3 °C and highs of 11 °C, a 52 year-old homeless man was found dead of hypothermia 400 metres away from the Casa Rosada. He was sleeping on the street, barely covered by cardboard.
According to Carr, “in these 12 days of winter (since June 21) the cold has caused five deaths on the street. And this is a big wake-up-call to the whole country.”
There are 1,146 homeless people in the city of Buenos Aires, a five percent increase from last year, according to data from the Buenos Aires City Government. NGOs estimate the real figure is at least four times hire and is being caused by a rise in unemployment and poverty which is brought on by recession and inflation. 32 percent of the Argentine population suffer from poverty and of those, 6.7 percent are destitute.
Various NGOs and activists are distributing food across the city.