Berlin wants to expand long-term assistance for the homeless

Berlin wants to expand long-term assistance for the homeless

After good experiences during the Coronavirus pandemic, the Berlin Senate Social Administration wants to expand the range of services for the homeless beyond the traditional emergency overnight stays.


© dpa

A homeless person sleeps in front of a store.

200 additional places in emergency shelters are to be added to the targeted 1,000 from November. These places will be available around the clock seven days a week, as spokesman Stefan Strauß said. In traditional cold aid shelters, residents have to return to the street after breakfast and can only come back in the evening - if there is still room. "We have had very good experience with 24/7 services during the pandemic," Strauß said.

24/7 facilities successful last year

Last winter, more than 500 such places in 24/7 shelters were available on a one-off basis. Among others, a youth hostel that had to close in the lockdown was converted into emergency accomodation. "These offers were so successful that it would be incomprehensible to end them." It's a development that employees of the Berlin City Mission are very happy about: "24/7 facilities are a first big step on the right path," said spokeswoman Barbara Breuer. In addition to shelter and supplies, these facilities also offer psychological help and social counseling. "However, those seeking help are also expected to play an active role," Breuer said.
According to the Senate Social Administration, three Berlin shelters operating in the 24/7 model are to be financed with 11.4 million euros from EU funds to deal with the Coronavirus crisis by 2023. A former hostel on Hallesches Ufer will exclusively accommodate women, Strauß reported. The other two shelters in the districts of Mitte and Treptow will be run by the City Mission and the International Federation.

Facilities allow homeless people to rest

Strauß and Breuer report that it is much easier to talk about life situations when people are able to rest, when regular meals and medical care are available. Consequently, it is also easier to think of future perspectives beyond life on the street. "Suddenly, other questions are dealt with," described the spokeswoman for the City Mission. She says she has been told of homeless people struggling with alcoholism whom social workers had never seen sober for years. "And then - in this new situation - they suddenly stop drinking."
The Corona pandemic brought with it a great many problems in view of the lockdown and hygiene measures, but in this respect it also showed opportunities. "It was an experiment for all of us," Breuer said. "But it showed what was possible."

Senate aims at long-term paradigm shift

According to the proposals of Social Affairs Senator Elke Breitenbach (Left Party), there is to be a long-term paradigm shift in Berlin toward sustainable services controlled by the city as a whole. One example of this is the "Housing First" model, in which homeless people who are entitled to unemployment benefits can get their own apartment. In the past three years, almost 80 people have found their own place to live through this model project based on the U.S. model.

Around 2000 homeless people in Berlin

The results of the "Housing First" project are considered a success, keeping in mind the project's target demographic and Berlin's extremely tight housing market. However, if this path were to be pursued consistently, "Housing First" alone would require 1.3 million euros annually, according to calculations by the social administration. "The decision on this lies with the new House of Representatives," Strauß said. The project therefore continues until the end of the first quarter of 2022. According to an initial count in January 2020, there are around 2,000 homeless people living in Berlin - although the reak number is likely higher because not all of those affected by homelessness could be counted.
Author: dpa
Publication date: 21. May 2022
Last updated: 29. October 2021

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