The "Kältebusse" (cold buses) are operated by the Stadtmission Berlin and other aid organisations such as the Kältehilfe. They take care of people living on the streets who are in danger due to the cold. On the one hand, they pick up homeless people on the street and take them to emergency shelters where they can sleep at night. On the other hand, they also provide sleeping bags or warm drinks and food to people who do not want to or cannot be taken to shelters. The support is organised in Berlin by church and social organisations with the help of volunteers and is financed by the state through the districts and with donations.
Cold snap: demand for assistance for homeless people is high
The Kältebus (cold bus) in Berlin helps between 50 and 70 people every evening. Due to the freezing temperatures, the need is currently increasing.
Only call a bus with consent
"It is always very important before calling a bus to approach the people and ask if they want it," said Barbara Breuer, spokesperson for the Stadtmission Berlin. Due to the limited capacity of the bus, one should make sure that the person really needs help, otherwise other people in need might miss out. Nevertheless, one should not be afraid to become active. In emergencies - for example if a person seems helpless and unresponsive - the police or fire brigade should be contacted.
Increasing demand for assistance
In general, he said, the need for assistance has been greater this year, including for the cold weather buses. "We now see that the need is growing. These are, for example, pensioners with a small pension. At our senior citizens' breakfast, we now have to turn people away because there are always more people coming than we can take in." There is also a great need for volunteers at the moment. Six new people are currently being sought for the relief work in the cold weather alone.
Around 1100 emergency shelters in Berlin
According to a first count in January 2020, there are about 2000 homeless people living in Berlin - although not all of them could be counted. The relief programme against the cold (Kältehilfe) has been operating for more than 30 years. Over the past years, the offer has been continuously expanded: In the winter of 2011/12, for example, a maximum of around 400 people had been able to find shelter for the night. In 2022, a total of 1100 places will be available. The aim is to protect people from freezing to death between October and April. The Senate Department for Social Affairs, the districts and several social organisations are involved, as well as numerous volunteers and donors.
Corona quarantine shelter for homeless people
Since mid-November, a quarantine shelter for homeless people infected with the corona virus has been open. It is located at Bundesallee 36 in Charlottenburg.