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Homelessness in Berlin: How to help people sleeping rough this winter

With winter closing in, there are many ways you can help someone struggling with homelessness in Berlin.

Photo: Imago / Rolf Zöllner

Berlin has some of the highest levels of homelessness in Germany. With winter well and truly underway, those without somewhere safe and warm to stay are even more vulnerable than usual. It’s easy to feel entirely powerless, but there are things you can do.

We have compiled a list of the ways you can help support a homeless person this winter.

Firstly, it’s crucial to make sure the person you are trying to help is comfortable with you getting involved. Talk to them to establish the kind of help they need and make sure that they consent to you contacting any services before you do so.

If you believe someone is having a medical emergency, call 112 immediately.

Here are some other useful phone numbers for assistance and advice.

  • Help hotline for homeless people 0157 80 59 78 70 (Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-5 p.m.), further information on their website
  • GEBEWO pro-gGmbH cold helpline 030/34 39 71 40 from October to April daily from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m
  • KARUNA Sub – bus line for homeless people 0157 86 60 50 80, Mon–Fri 8 a.m.–4 p.m., more information here

Mobile Help: Kältebus and Wärmebus

Photo: Imago / epd

Shelters can be tricky to get to – particularly in harsh winter conditions – meaning some homeless people are less able to get help. In 1995, the Berliner Stadtmission started running three “Kältebus” through the city. These buses now run every year between November and March, with their mobility meaning they can go to places otherwise not so well served by regular shelters.

The Kältebus picks people up and takes them to emergency overnight accommodation, or, if this is not possible or isn’t something the person wants, then the Kältebus will provide them with warm sleeping equipment and food.

There is also the “Wärmebus”, which is run by the German Red Cross. This offers a similar service, running throughout the nights in winter and providing resources such as sleeping bags and blankets, as well as hot tea. They can also help organise accommodation for the night.

If you meet someone in need of emergency shelter or warm sleeping provisions, first talk to them and then, if they are comfortable, call the “Kältebus” or “Wärmebus”. Another way to help is by donating money to these excellent causes via their websites.

  • Kältebus (Berliner Stadtmission) Tel. 030/690 33 36 90, available daily from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., online
  • Wärmebus (German Red Cross) November 1st – March 31st, Tel. 030/60 03 00 10 10, available daily from 6 p.m. to midnight, online

Emergency Overnight Shelter

Photo: Imago / USA Today Network

There are also a number of locations around Berlin where people can directly access emergency overnight shelter. These offer a warm place to stay for the night, with many also providing food and medical care. 

Here is a list of emergency shelters that are open to everyone:

  • AWO Kiezcafé, Petersburger Str. 92, Friedrichshain, October 1st – April 30th
  • Notübernachtung Kurmärkische, Kurmärkische Str. 1-3, Schöneberg. 1.10.–31.12.
  • Herberge zur Heimat, Falkenseer Chaussee 154, Spandau, October 1st – April 30th.
  • Neustart Berlin GmbH, Otto-Rosenberg-Str. 8/8a, Marzahn, October 1st – April 30th
  • Neustart Berlin GmbH, Otto-Rosenberg-Str. 10 Marzahn 1.11 – 31.3.
  • Notübernachtung Bergstr., Bergstr. 4, Steglitz, October 1st – April 30th.
  • Notübernachtung Lehrter Str., Lehrter Str. 68 Moabit, November 1st – April 15th.

Click here to find an up-to-date list of all open emergency shelters in the city. 

Emergency shelters open all year round

Of course, unfortunately, homelessness is not an issue limited to the winter months, it is a problem all year round.

Here are some emergency accommodation spots open throughout the year, providing medical support and help with personal hygiene.

  • Notübernachtung am Containerbahnhof 1 (behind the Ring-Center Frankfurter Allee), Friedrichshain, entry daily from 8 p.m
  • Notübernachtung Franklinstr., Franklinstr. 27a, Charlottenburg, entry daily from 6 p.m
  • Notunterkunft Strassenfeger, Storkower Str. 139c, Prenzlauer Berg, daily 6 p.m. to 8 a.m

Help during the day

In these freezing conditions, it is not only during the nights when homeless people need support. Here is a detailed list of places around the city where meals, drinks and other resources are available throughout the day. 

Help for women

Photo: SKF Berlin

All homeless people have different needs and not every service is the best fit for everyone. One factor that can be important when accessing help is gender identity. There are shelters solely for homeless women that provide specific support and safety, including access to personal hygiene products.

  • Notübernachtung für Frauen “Mitten Im Kiez”, Petersburger Str. 92, Friedrichshain, all year round from 7 p.m
  • Notübernachtung für Frauen GEBEWO Pro, Tieckstr. 5 p.m., middle, all year round 7 p.m. – 8 a.m
  • Notübernachtung “Marie”, Tieckstr. 5 p.m., middle, all year round from 7 p.m., Tuesdays from 3 p.m
  • Notübernachtung “Evas Obdach”, Fuldastr. 9, Neukölln, all year round from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m
  • Evas Haltestelle, Müllerstr. 126, Wedding, October 1st – April 30th, 6 p.m. – 8 a.m
  • Notübernachtung für Frauen, Wrangelstr. 30, Kreuzberg, November 1st – April 30th, Mon-Fri from 6 p.m., Sat & Sun from 8 p.m

In addition to women-only spaces, there are also specific facilities for men, as well as support for homeless families.

The Kühlhilfe has downloadable lists on its website, detailing all services, including capacities, phone numbers and specific information regarding who can be best helped by each facility.

Photo: Imago / Rolf Poss

Clothing Donations

Wondering what to do with that growing pile of clothes you haven’t worn in months? You can give them to a good cause. There are several locations around the city where you can donate clothing, but be sure to check online in advance to see which items are needed most.

  • Kleiderkammer der Berliner Stadtmission, Lehrter Str. 68, Mitte, Mon-Fri 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., Tel. 030/69 03 35 18, website
  • Kleiderkammer der Franziskaner/Franziskaner Kloster, Wollankstr. 18, Pankow, Tue, Thu, Fri 12.30 p.m. – 2.30 p.m. (opening hours for guests), Tue-Sat 8.30 a.m. – 11.30 a.m. and Tue-Fri 12.30 p.m. – 2.30 p.m. (opening hours for clothing donors), Tel. 030/48 83 96 60, to the website
  • Gesundheitszentrum für Obdachlose /Jenny de la Torre, Pflugstr. 12, Mitte, Mon-Thurs 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., Fri 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Donations of goods and clothing can only be brought in after registering by phone, Tel. 030/288 84 59 86, further information here
  • Kleiderkammer des DRK-Kreisverband Berlin-Zentrum e.V., Gotzkowskystr. 8, Tiergarten, Tel. 030/60 03 00 51 32, opening times, acceptance times for donations and information about what is most needed here

For a map of all the donation locations, including for personal hygiene items and other necessary goods, click here.

Medical care and hygiene

Image Courtesy of: vostel.de/blog/en/medical-van-homeless-aid/

There are many places throughout the city that provide medical care, with some also offering services to those with no health insurance. There are also mobile services providing medical assistance and hygiene provisions.

Check out the list below to know who to contact to help someone with medical assistance, including drug-related support.

  • Ambulanz der Berliner Stadtmission, Lehrter Straße 68, Mitte, Tue 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., Fri 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., wound consultation hours: Tue 2 p.m. – 4 p.m., further consultation hours and information here
  • Arztpraxis am Stralauer Platz, Stralauer Platz 32, Friedrichshain, general medical consultation hours, dental services, consultation hours and further information here
  • Caritas Arztmobil is a small van converted into a treatment room, various locations, medical supplies and care. Caritas also provides sick apartments for homeless people in which they can recover. Further information including a list of current locations here
  • Malteser Medicine for people without health insurance, Aachener Straße 12, Wilmersdorf, open consultation hours Tue-Fri 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. as well as appointment consultation hours in the following specialist areas: general medicine, gynaecology, orthopaedics, paediatrics, dentistry, dermatology (opening hours may vary), Tel. 030/82 72 26 00, more information here
  • Drogenkonsummobil, Stuttgarter Platz, Charlottenburg and other locations, Mon-Fri 2 p.m. – 6 p.m., distribution of utensils, injecting drugs under medical supervision, immediate help in the event of overdoses, medical and nursing advice, further information here
  • Mobile shower for women, various locations, Monday to Friday and every 2nd Saturday of the month, distribution of hygiene products and packed lunches, Tel. 0151/14 64 87 56, further information and all locations here
  • Hygiene centre (Stadtmission) Jebensstr. 5 (Bahnhofsmission Zoo), Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Mon-Sun 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., toilet and shower rooms, cleaning of sleeping bags and laundry possible, on certain days also foot care, Tel. 030/313 80 88, online
  • Gesundheitszentrum for the homeless/Jenny de la Torre, Pflugstr. 12, Mitte, in the health centre there are various medical practices available to homeless people, as well as sanitary facilities with showers, advice and support services, further information here
Photo: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Volunteering 

Most of the facilities that support homeless people depend entirely on the help of volunteers. There are many ways that you can get involved, including food distribution and daily operations. Check out the websites of the places mentioned in this article to find out how to help.