Featured Profiles

The City Angel Assisting The Homeless

Mario Furlan is the Founder of the City Angels, a Non-Profit Organization that helps homeless people and citizens in difficulty. In collaboration with the police, they have also prevented and fought crimes in the region. In 2001 he received the Campione prize, an award given every year to ’10 champions’ of solidarity, legality and civicism. He is also the Founder of Wilding, instinctive self-defence, based on 2p: psychology and prevention. Since 2010 he has held Wilding courses in Italy and various European countries for law enforcement, security guards, public and private security officers, drivers and controllers. In 2018 he was named ‘Best Italian Life Coach’ by the Italian Coach Association.


Mario Furlan distinctly remembers an incident that shaped his path in life when he was merely nine years old. He says, “It made me want to always stand next to the weak and support the victims.” Talking about the harrowing incident, he says, “When I was around nine, I used to destroy the hunters’ shelters to prevent them from hiding and killing the birds. One day a hunter found me and beat me violently. I ran home in tears and swore to myself I would always stand against violence.”


This value was also instilled further by his grandfather, who was an anti-fascist partisan in World War II and helped Jews escape from Nazi persecution to safety.


Growing up with a strong moral compass, Furlan graduated in Political Science with 110 cum laude from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan (1989), after attending the ‘Gabriello Chiabrera’ Liceo Classico in Savona. He subsequently received his PhD in Psychology from New York University and the qualification of Master Trainer in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).


Furlan then worked as a journalist at Mondadori, in the editorial board of the weekly ‘Noi’ (Now known as ‘Chi’). He says, “I loved the work, but at a certain point, I felt the need to not limit myself to describing what I saw, but to positively affect reality instead.” He adds, “I wanted, in a small way, to make the world around me a better place by creating a new association, different from all the others.”


This led to establishing the City Angels in Milan in 1994. This came naturally to Furlan as he had a long experience of volunteering; since 1983, he had carried out assistance to the homeless at the shelter of Brother Ettore Boschini in the Central Station. He was also a WWF environmental activist during middle school.


Furlan’s first collaborator in this enterprise was his cousin, Paolo De Gradi, a scout from Agesci. Furlan was 29 years old, and Paolo was just 19. In a short period, their small group of two increased to a group of twenty young people between 18 and 35 years of age, and the adventure of the City Angels began. Paolo left a few years later, and Furlan found other collaborators to grow the Association with, which today has over 1000 volunteers.


City Angels are volunteers who assist citizens and the marginalized: homeless, immigrants, drug addicts and the elderly by providing them with shelter and food supplies. They are the only Non-Profit Association in Italy involved in preventing and fighting street crime in cooperation with law enforcement agents. They run ‘Casa Silvana’ in Milan, the only home for families open all night that even accommodates homeless animals. In addition, they also run two other shelters for the homeless, one just for men and the other for women and families. They generally operate in areas with significant social problems, usually around the railway stations in many cities. The organization also works with public transport to enhance security and help passengers.


From their birth, City Angels have been organizing public initiatives to promote tolerance, solidarity, anti-racism and brotherhood among people. Among their events, they host the multi-religious prayer the day before Christmas and Easter in the Milan Central Station in front of the Shoah Memorial. Representatives of various religions (priests, imams, rabbis, Protestant pastors, amongst others) pray together in the middle of the homeless people gathered in the region. Another event they host is the ‘Angel Day’ at the central Milan soup kitchen: a day in which the mayor, together with political leaders, television, entertainment, sports and cultural stars, wear Angel costumes and act as waiters to the homeless that promotes joy and unity. The group helps over three thousand people every day in Italy and Switzerland and hopes to expand further.


This experience with the City Angels on the streets and in the most dangerous districts of Italy pushed Furlan, an expert in self-defense and instructor of Krav Maga and Jeet Kune Do, to create Wilding, the psychophysical self-defense. It is taught to City Angels volunteers to enable them to better cope with risky situations. Wilding, or instinctive self-defense, is also taught by Furlan and the City Angels to women, adolescents, the elderly, and those who feel the need to learn to protect themselves through 2Ps: psychology and prevention. Following the example of the City Angels: in all these years, there have been thousands of public order interventions, from snatching to brawling, but never any injuries.


The President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, had received them in his Quirinale office on December 9th, 2009, and had complimented them, saying they represent, as volunteers, “the best of Italy”. Pope Benedict XVIth had also called them “Scouts of the XXIst century”.


Due to their tremendous work in the region, the City Angels have received several awards by the institutions, including the Paul Harris Award of the Rotary Club International to Mario Furlan, Founder of City Angels in 2007; the ‘Ambrogino d’Oro’ (to the honorary City Angel Eddy Gardner) in 2008; Ambassador for Peace Award of the World Peace Organisation in 2008; The Gift of Humanity Award in 2009, Gold medal of the City of Bergamo in 2018 and ‘Bronzi di Riace’ award to Mario Furlan, Founder of City Angels in 2019.


In conclusion, Furlan’s advice to budding entrepreneurs is, “Believe in yourself and your cause!” And you will have a positive effect on the lives of others around you.