Solidarity in the train stations

Photo: Help Centers

Last update: Sustainability Report 2018

Promoted and managed in collaboration with local bodies and non-profit associations, the Help Centers are the FS Group’s answer to the growing phenomenon of social hardship and the considerable rise in migration to Europe and, in particular, Italy.

The Help Centers are meant to welcome and shelter those who are most in need and help begin their rehabilitation with the city’s social services and institutions. The Group plays a key role in this project, providing space inside or near to the station on free loan to associations and authorities engaged in combating social marginalisation and covering urgent needs so they can create the appropriate structures.

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. 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 2,658 m² has been granted, with an estimated value of € 3,987,000 euro.

Help Centers will open in Rovereto and Viareggio in 2019, while plans are being made to expand the help centres in Pescara and Messina and technical studies are under way for the opening of centres in Terni and Cagliari.

Under an agreement between the Tuscany regional authorities and FS Italiane Group, additional help centres in LivornoMontecatini and Grosseto are being evaluated.

The Help Center network's main services

In 2018, the help centre network assisted around 20,700 people, down significantly (-20%) on 2017 due to the relocation of certain services, specifically the Milan help centre which moved to other offices, and the installation of access gates to the station platforms.
However, there was a rise in the percentage of new users, i.e., those using the social services available at the station for the first time, reflecting how the recently impoverished see the help centres as a place to seek guidance and help.

The centres provided over 90,000 forms of support and social guidance and carried out 240,000 low threshold projects (providing necessities such as food, clothes, blankets or basic sanitary services), bringing the total to approximately 334,000 social projects. Men remained the main beneficiaries (83%), most of whom were foreigners, with 70% from countries outside the UE and 10% from EU countries.

Main Help Center indicators 

  2018 2017 2016
Total days open
4,927 4,635 4,565
Total hours open 23,936 25,614 31,721
VISITORS 159,299 192,958 241,237
Social orientations projects
92,546 95,181 74,411
Low threshold projects
241,451 361,107 409,005
333,997 456,288 483,416
TOTAL USERS 20,677 25,890 22,687
New users 13,769 13,254 10,790


In addition to the help centres, through major Italian non-profit associations, many shelters have been set up in idle railways areas, particularly in Rome and Milan:

  • the Don Luigi Di Liegro shelter in Rome,
  • the Rifugio Caritas shelter in Milan,
  • the Binario 95 day shelter in Rome,
  • the Progetto Arca shelter in Milan,
  • the Pedro Arrupe shelter in Rome for those seeking asylum and political refugees, managed by the Centro Astalli association.

A total surface area of roughly 11,000 m² has been granted on free loan for the social activities carried out in the shelters, with a total estimated value of around €16,500,00094. Overall, the total surface area granted in 2018 on free loan for social activities is approximately 13,70095 m², with an estimated value of around €20,500,000.