Solidarity in the train stations

Photo: Help Centers

The Help Centers are the first major solidarity project launched by the Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group, in collaboration with local authorities and NGO's, to combat the social problems encountered in Italian train stations.

These are "low threshold" information points - i.e. without any filtering of users - located inside or around railway stations, which direct persons in need towards the city's social services (day centres, therapeutic communities, specialised associations) with the aim of rehabilitating them and reinserting them into society.

The Help Center model offers persons in need a concrete alternative to living in the station and the prospect of chronic social exclusion. At any time, they welcome centres, the countless experiences in the spaces made available free of charge in stations – all of these can be traced back to this new experimental approach to welfare. This transformation of how to take social action goes alongside the concept of social responsibility (CSR), which is increasingly orientated towards the creation of shared value: so not just for the company, but also for all its reference stakeholders, for the community and surrounding area.

To ensure that the Help Centers work in synergy, the group makes use of close collaboration with the National Monitoring Unit on Disadvantage and Solidarity in Stations (ONDS), which carries out coordination in all the centres, with training for the Help Center operators and detailed analysis in the area of social disadvantage. To create the Help Centers, the FS Group provides rooms inside or near to the station, on loan for use, to associations and authorities engaged in combating social marginalisation and exclusion.

The Help Center network currently extends to 18 railway stations from Northern to Southern Italy. A total surface area of approximately 2,919 m² has been granted, with an estimated value of € 4,378,500.

The Help Center network's main services

In December 2017, the 18th Help Center was opened in Pisa San Rossore through the “Scambi e binari” project. The approximately 100 m² space provided by FS Italiane Group has been used to set up a new gathering place in a highly marginalised and disadvantaged neighbourhood. Other Help Centers have been improved and checks are underway to expand the Help Center in Messina.

In 2017, the network of Help Centers sheltered 25,890 people, an increase of 14% on the previous year.

Over 50% were “new” users i.e. those who used the ONDS social services in the stations for the first time during the year. There were over 95,000 support and social orientation projects and over 360,000 low threshold projects, providing primary goods such as food, clothes, blankets or basic sanitary services (showers and washing machines) for a total of approximately 456,300 social projects.

The majority of those who used the network were men (84%), compared to just 16% women. Most of the users were foreigners from non-EU countries (66%), followed by Italians (21%) and foreigners from European countries (12%, especially from Eastern Europe).

Performance indicators for ONDS network's Help Centers

  2017 2016 2015
Total days open
4,635 4,565
Total hours open 25,614 31,721
VISITORS 192,958 241,237 116,328
Social orientations projects
95,181 74,411
Low threshold projects
361,107 409,005
456,288 483,416
TOTAL USERS 25,890 22,687
new users 13,254 10,790
Social projects/day 21 16 22
Low threshold projects/day 78 90 96
Users/day 7 6 6
New users/day 3 2 2

The Help Center of Termini Station in Rome

On 20th June 2017, the new Social Hub of Termini Station in Rome was inaugurated with the financial support of Roma Capitale local authority. The hub systematises the Help Center, the Mobile Unit and the day and night welcome centre Binario 95. New, larger spaces have been given over free of charge by Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group, following the restructuring inside Termini station, which meant that the spaces mentioned were no longer used.

The services of the Polo Sociale Roma Termini (Rome Termini Help Center), which are now properly integrated, have been working at the station since 2002 to meet the needs of those who are at risk of marginalisation or who have been affected by psycho-social problems.

An Help Center in Luxembourg

Opened in Luxembourg on, the Help Center in the Central Station, thanks to the collaboration between the railway companies of 12 European countries which adhere to the Charter of solidarity promoted by the Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.

The speakers at the inauguration included the President of the Luxembourg Railways Jeannot Waringo; the Mayor of the city,Lydie Polfer; the Luxembourg Minister of Family and Integration, Corinne Cahen, and the Minister of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure, François Bausch.

Representing the Railways which adhere to the "Charter" was Co-president Fabrizio Torella of the FS Italiane.

The Help Center, symbolically called "Para-Chute" (parachute), was created on the premises of the Luxembourg Railways in partnership with the Help Center of the Trieste Railway Station, the next one to be opened.