Berlin wants to expand help for homeless beyond emergency care

Photo by Nick FewingsAfter good experiences during the Corona pandemic, the Berlin Senate Social Administration wants to expand the range of services for the homeless beyond the classic emergency overnight stays. According to spokesman Stefan Strauß, an additional 200 places are to be added to the targeted 1,000 from November, which will be available around the clock seven days a week.

In traditional cold-help shelters, residents have to return to the street after breakfast and can only come back in the evening - if there is still room. "We had a very good experience with 24/7 services during the pandemic," Strauß said.Last winter, more than 500 such places were available on a one-off basis. Among them was a youth hostel that had to close in the lockdown. "These offerings 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 there," Breuer said.

According to the Senate Social Administration, three Berlin shelters based on the 24/7 model are to be financed by 2023 with 11.4 million euros from EU funds to deal with the Corona crisis. A former hostel on Hallesches Ufer will only accommodate women, Strauß reported. The sponsors of the other two shelters in the Mitte and Treptow districts are the Stadtmission and the International Federation, he said.

Strauß and Breuer report that when people are able to rest and have regular meals and medical care, it is much easier to talk about their living situations - and thus to find perspectives beyond the street. "Suddenly, other questions arise," described the spokeswoman for the city mission.She says she has been told of homeless people with alcoholism who social workers had never seen sober for years. "And then - in this new situation - they suddenly stop drinking."The Corona pandemic, he said, 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 has shown what is possible."

According to the proposals of Social Senator Elke Breitenbach (Left Party), there is to be a paradigm shift in Berlin in the long term toward citywide managed and sustainable services. One example of this is the "Housing First" model, in which homeless people who are entitled to Hartz IV 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.

In this group and in Berlin's more than tight housing market, this is considered a success. If this approach were to be pursued consistently, however, the social services administration calculates that 1.3 million euros would be needed per year for "Housing First" alone. "The decision on this lies with the new House of Representatives," Strauß said. The project would therefore continue until the end of the first quarter of 2022.According to an initial count in January 2020, there are around 2000 homeless people living in Berlin - although not all of those affected could be counted.



Photo by Nick Fewings

 


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