“In big cities, what kills the down and outs, is solitude, rather than cold and hunger”.


Brother Biagio Conte, founder of the Mission of Hope and Charity, was born in Palermo in 1963.
He was the son of a businessman, whom he worked with until 1990. Then, He felt the need to leave home and work, in order to start a spiritual journey which led him to make a pilgrimage to Assisi by feet.
On his return to Palermo in 1991 he decided to devote his life to those  he calls “the last brothers”.
He started to live inside the Railway Station distributing blankets, food and friendship to the homeless.
In 1993 brother Biagio asked the City Hall of Palermo the possibility to use an old hospital, which had been abandoned and was nearly derelict, to assist the brothers. Unfortunately, authorities rejected the request. Therefore, Brother Biagio went on a hunger strike: after 15 days without food, the City Hall permitted the use of this structure. After only 5 years the old hospital was completely restored by brother Biagio , “his last brothers” and lots of volunteers from many regions of Italy.
In 1998 Brother Biagio asked to use an old convent, abandoned for  40 years, which is today a refuge for women and children.
Considering the very large request for help, particularly from refugee and immigrants, in 2002 the third community of the Mission of Hope and Charity was born. The structure was derived from an old  Air Force Base which had been in disuse  for many years. This center has been called “ The Little Town of the Poor and Hope”.
Today the Mission, in these three different centers, aids about 900 “last brothers” who receive a bed, food and above all, authentic Christian love.
The whole organization, besides the voluntary activities, is based on the mutual help of the guests who are part of a huge family. The three structures occupied by Brother Biagio, given by public authorities and totally rebuilt by the guests who live there, respond to the principle ”It's right that the mission doesn't own any property “ as Biagio Conte says, ” since we serve the community”.

The missionaries and Volunteers
Brother Biagio has been joined by a missionary, brother Giovanni, and by a Salesian priest, Father Giuseppe Vitrano, (the spiritual father of the missionaries and hosted brothers) as well as by female missionaries: sister Mattia, sister Alessandra and sister Lucia (who are responsible of the community that hosts women and children).
The missionaries are helped by so many volunteers. They  dedicate part of their time to the last brother in the spirit of Charity,  offering various voluntary services, coordinated by the missionaries or by volunteers with more experience.

Formation and integration Activity
The activity of the Mission is not oriented to passive assistance but rather to the recovery of dignity of all those who found themselves in the margin of society, often found rejected and considered non recoverable. Due to voluntary work offered by craftsmen and liberal professional efforts are made to give hope to hosted brothers. The possibility to learn a profession is offered to face quickly return into society and to correct integration in the social context, in particular considering the high number of foreign brothers hosted in the Mission.
There are several examples of exercised professions, such as carpenter, ironsmith, shoemaker, printer, hairdresser, bricklayer, cook, tailor, sculptor.

The Night Mission service
In the Mission various volunteers, like doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, teachers, retired and students are active.  
Thanks to the voluntary service organized by the Mission many citizens may get to know more closely sufferings and the true difficulties of the last brothers.
The Night Mission service was the first voluntary service organized by the Mission since 1993.
Every night a van leaves with a group of seven volunteers who follow an agreed route which covers all the city. The van carries thermos bottles with hot milk and tea, snacks, rolls, tins, blankets and clothes to be offered to the last brothers who live in the street.
During summer when there are less brothers in the streets, the service is reduced and is carried out by the brothers who live in the Mission. The Night Mission is used to reach those last brothers who, for various reasons, have lost their contact with society. The primary aim is to bring words of comfort and solidarity and  to give them continuous assistance respecting their will.
One of the older volunteer that helps for this service says: ”The mission of Biagio Conte was born at the Central Station and its connection with the street is essential. I have been doing the Night Mission for about ten years, once every two weeks and have always tried to assure a limited but constant involvement. Even after a long and tiring day, taking part in the Night Mission gives me new energies. Personally I have various doubts concerning faith, but the sensation I feel when I meet the down and outs is that of seeing the image of Christ. The fact that the Mission hosts and feeds the homeless everyday seems to me a miracle and the Blessing of GOD”.

The medical assistance
Since the beginning of the Mission  of Hope and Charity, a large number of brothers who lived rough, showed different medical issues. At that time the pavement and carton boxes from the Central Railway Station of Palermo were the walls and camp beds of the first Aid for the Mission's doctors, respectively.
Two volunteers doctors approached Brother Biagio in the waiting room and were immediately ready to help  at his request. They were close to the brothers and helped  to treat those who add their physical suffering to their already existing problems of solitude and social alienation. Often brothers bear  physical suffering in silence, because they are afraid of asking for help from public institutions. The opportunity to  find a doctor on the street who is ready to help them, has represented a moment of light and hope. Since the beginning at the station, physicians have felt the need to be near the mission, offering patient care on old campers and tents.
Today in each of the three communities there are medical ambulatories where volunteer physicians offer their professional activity. General medicine and surgery is practiced as well as ophthalmology, dental, and pediatric visits. Some rooms in the three communities are destined to host chronically sick brothers who need a closer medical observation and nursery assistance. These sick people who are living in the Mission now are those who are picked up by the camper during the night Mission, or those who have left a hospital or emergency but haven’t got a house as a place to stay in. They do not have family and even if they have, it is as if they did not because their families are incapable of supporting them in any aspect of their lives, including medical support. They often lack everything. The mission is keeping up its activity thanks to charity and volunteer spirit which drives everything.

The legal counseling service
For many years some volunteers close to the mission who are lawyers, have offered legal assistance to the brothers who live there, and to a large number of families in the city of Palermo. The most common problems are related to social benefits and taxes, imprisonment of a family member and evictions. Lawyers who carry out this service, even though they work full time, offer their help for free. They try to help their “clients “ to understand their rights.

It is worth noting that since 2001,because of the large number of immigrants landing illegally in Sicily, the legal assistance has been mainly devoted to them. Lawyers offer advices about the procedures for being recognized as a political refugee, as well as assistance with political asylum. The volunteers help the immigrants with the bureaucratic procedures such as the request for documents, renewal of stay permit, change of residence. They encourage  them to solve their problems using their own strength. When it is not possible,  the brothers are referred to the appropriate offices or organizations which can help them with their problems. When necessary the brothers are helped to protect their right in the spirit of Charity.


Chi Siamo
La Storia della Missione raccontata da Fratel Biagio
La Missione Speranza e Carità
- L'accoglienza femminile
La cittadella del Povero e della Speranza
L'Assistenza donata in Missione
Le Attività dei fratelli accolti in Missione
Sorella Provvidenza
I Missionari e le Missionarie della Speranza e della Carità
I Volontari
La Missione Notturna
Il Signore fino ad oggi ci ha Soccorso
Simbolo -  Missione di Speranza e Carità