Learning from homeless people Social work students at Milan’s Central Railway Station

Elena Cabiati, Claudia Tagliabue

The experience presented here arises from young social work students in the framework of Relational social work education (Donati, 2010; Folgheraiter, 2007) promoted by the University of [name deleted to maintain the integrity of the review process]. Directed by the educator to organize a lesson themselves, the students proposed to leave the University to go to the Central Railway Station of Milan. From their voices, the explicit purpose of this non-conventional lesson was meeting homeless individuals, bringing them food and blankets and trying to talk with them. The opportunity to spend a day with the homeless people was an important educational activity for the students in the first year of their bachelor’s degree programs: Most had never before experienced a real encounter with a person in a difficult situation. The educator had no professional expectations. Through classroom discussion and self-reflection reports, it emerged that this real contact with homeless people permitted the students to discover themselves in relation to the need and to reflect about personal meanings, projections and prejudices against poverty and marginalized people. Considerations for social work education creative learning experiences are proposed.


Social work students – Relational social work method – Creative learning experiences – Homeless people – Reciprocity.