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Sub-zero temperatures: emergency accommodation spaces at capacity

Kältehilfe (3)

A needy man (r) is served food by a volunteer at the Caritas cold bus in the city centre in freezing temperatures.

In view of the wintry temperatures in Berlin, the demand for cold buses (Kältebusse) for the homeless is increasing - and large and central emergency shelters are becoming cramped.

Some of them are overcrowded, as enquiries by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (German Press Agency) to individual providers of cold aid have revealed. A spokesperson for the Senate Department for Integration, Labour and Social Affairs stated that the capacity utilisation of the emergency accommodation places - currently 1183 citywide - is over 90 per cent.

Further shelters recently put into operation

In recent weeks, further shelters have been put into operation, including one with 60 places in Leinestraße in Neukölln, the authority said. A warning system has been set up internally, it said. "We are keeping an eye on the cold aid situation, especially in these low temperatures. Our crisis team reacts quickly if it becomes necessary and we need more places." So far, all homeless people who need a place to stay in winter have been offered a place.

Support buses in Berlin

  • Help bus of the DRK-Landesverband Berliner Rotes Kreuz e.V.: 030 600 300 1010 (Daily from 6 pm to midnight)
  • Kältebus of the Berliner Stadtmission: 030 690 333 690 (Daily from 8 pm to 2 am)
  • Telephone number for assistance in the cold of the Gebewo pro gGmbH: 030 343 971 40 (Daily from 7 pm to 11 pm)
  • Help hotline for homeless people: 0157 805 978 70 (Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm)
  • In emergencies: 110 (Police) or 112 (Fire Department)

Around 50 calls per night

"As soon as we have sub-zero temperatures, it is almost impossible for the cold buses to cope," said a spokeswoman for the Berlin City Mission. She said there are then about 50 calls per night, the requests spread over three to four buses. "The shelter in Lehrter Straße is full every day - and overflowing," said the spokeswoman. 150 people can find refuge there. However, there are individual places in the airdome at the container railway station and a shelter in Reinickendorf on Kopenhagener Straße.

"The Berlin players are well connected."

"The emergency overnight stay in Ohlauer Straße with 76 places for men is almost always full, especially on colder days," a spokeswoman for the Berlin regional branch of Johanniter Unfall-Hilfe said about the facility in Kreuzberg. If there are requests from cold buses looking for free places, eight or nine additional emergency beds could still be set up in the dining hall. "But if everything is really full here, there is usually room elsewhere. The Berlin players are well connected."

More guests in need of care

The spokesperson of the City Mission said that it was noticeable that many of the guests were sitting in wheelchairs or walking with crutches or walkers. Some are in need of care. The helpers could hardly meet the demands on care. For example, trained staff is actually needed for this. "We are collecting donations to set up care beds," said the spokesperson.

Donations needed: Sleeping bags, sleeping mats and gloves

The Stadtmission's clothing store is also happy to receive donations in kind, such as warm underwear, winter jackets and warm shoes. According to Johanniter, the facility in Ohlauer Straße is also happy to receive donations of hygiene articles, shoes, sleeping bags and gloves. In addition, volunteer help is always needed.

"Please don't look the other way"

A spokesperson for the Berlin Red Cross reported that the situation was not unusual for the DRK warmth bus so far. Helpers on board are distributing such items as tea and warming equipment from 6pm to midnight and responding to tips. "What we always need in terms of donations are sleeping bags, sleeping mats and gloves." The spokesperson appealed to Berliners: "Please don't look the other way." If one suspects that a homeless person is suffering from the weather conditions, one should ask if everything is okay, he said. It is better to call for help once too often than once too little.

Calling a cold bus only with consent

"It is always very important before calling a cold bus to approach people and ask if they want it," said a spokeswoman for the Stadtmission. Due to the limited capacity of the bus, one should make sure that the person really needs help, otherwise other people in need of help might miss out. Nevertheless, one should not be afraid to become active. In emergencies - for example if a person appears helpless and unresponsive - the police or fire brigade should be contacted.

Author: dpa/BerlinOnline/
Publication date: 7 February 2023
Last updated: 7 February 2023

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