Visiting homeless shelter in Berlin: ‘homeless does not mean unemployed’

SOLIDAR Foundation organised a study visit to Berlin, Germany that was kindly hosted by our member Internationaler Bund (IB). A delegation of 15 international participants visited newly reconstructed accommodation for the homeless.  

From the staff in the centre we learnt that finding an apartment in a German city is hard work these days. That is especially true for those who have little money. According to different organisations representing tenants, it's common for up to 50 prospective tenants to be shown an apartment in a single day1.  The situation led recently to country wide protests that are forcing politicians to act by increasing investment and the supply of social housing in the German capital and other big cities.

IB manages a structure that provides more than 300 beds divided into single/double and family rooms.   The structure is used to maximum capacity and free places are rarely available. At the time of our visit there were more than 20 nationalities living in the shelter – the two largest groups being from Germany and Syria.  After visiting the facility we were welcomed by the director who spoke to us about the main challenges that they are facing at the moment.  The two main issues besides capacity were tenants not respecting the ground rules (no drugs and alcohol are allowed and their use can lead to eviction) and the lack of infrastructure that would enable staff to take care of the elderly tenants.  We have also learnt that most of the people who are in the shelter are contributing financially. The staff explained that despite what the public may believe, homeless does not mean unemployed. Many of the tenants came to the shelter because they could not afford Berlin prices or were evicted from their homes after getting into debt. Naturally the structure has also accepted a large number of refugees who have come to Germany in the last few years.  While the structure cooperates with public authorities and social services, the director unveiled plans to also kick start cooperation with civil society organisations and learning providers who could provide services for the tenants such as language teaching, labour market orientation, vocational training and courses.

The study visit was followed by a members meeting where they discussed, among others their preparations and strategies for mobilisations ahead of the European Elections. The minutes of the meeting can be found here.


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