Homeless and poor people mobilize a self-help project


1. Starting point of our work

The reason for founding our association in 1994 remains today: the persistent poverty of significant parts of the population, evident in its most extreme form when it comes to homeless people. Despite statements from the housing industry and some politicians, there are still serious problems related to unsafe housing conditions, homelessness, and the urgent need for shelters.

To support this group of people in their struggle to maintain a dignified life and develop their own perspectives, mob has various projects which are described below.

2. Aim and offer

The organisation and implementation of all these projects follows self-help principles, which means that the effort of the people themselves is stressed. Under the association’s umbrella, participants can pursue their own projects to find their own apartment.

o The self-help building project in the Oderberger Strae 12 is making it possible for
self-help homeless and poor people to create new housing with a high degree of their own responsibility and competent instruction. This is a substantial contribution to the structural fight against the housing shortage, because it guarantees an offer of lasting affordable housing with proper tenancy agreements.

o The Trdel Point (junk point), is an important economic part of the association. This initiative sells furniture, household articles, rubbish, books and records etc., all donated to the association by the population of Berlin.

o The internet page www.strassenfegerberlin.de provides communication with interested members of the public and presents the association’s work to a broad audience.

3. Homelesspaper

The strassenfeger is a newspaper to publicize urgent social and development problems. It offers financial improvement to the streetsellers and is also a creative space for those sellers who want to publish own texts. The paper comes out every two weeks with 26 editions a year and sells an average of 15,000 copies. The editorial staff has an open meeting once a week where contributors and users discuss their expectations and thereby assure that topics are permanently up-to-date. There is also an occasional writing workshop when needed where people can work on their individual writing style. The paper is distributed at Bahnhof Zoo, Ostbahnhof and in Kaffee Bankrott. The strassen|feger is sold by very different people who are all very poor. Some are homeless or living in flats or other housing and are poor for various reasons. Selling papers helps them earn some money.

4. Kaffee Bankrott (caf bunkrupt) – meeting point and emergency shelter

“Kaffee Bankrott” is an open self-help meeting point for homeless and poor people and for the neighbourhood, providing an address to which to turn. Visitors can eat cheaply, wash their clothes, use the internet, and meet other people. The rules of the house are: no alcohol, no drugs, no violence, and no sexual encroachment. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.

Many people attend regular social counseling which is also offered. The emergency shelter is open throughout the year, seven days a week. There are accommodations available for 16 men and women in separate rooms. “Kaffee Bankrott” can also be used for cultural activities, like film exhibits and all kinds of shows. It is an important place where poor people come together. It is also an important place for the counterculture and subculture.

5. Trdelpoint (junkpoint) – secondhand and household articles

Trdelpoint helps homeless people in Berlin and Brandenburg who move into new apartments with safe secondhand household articles and furniture which otherwise would be left in people’s basements. Trdelpoint will gladly make an appointment to pick up donated items. The concept also unburdens the environment and produces employment. People are sometimes given a choice between a prison sentence or charity work at the Trdelpoint, where they can contribute their capacities and skills.

6. Oderberger Strae 12 – self-help building project and apartment house

An apartment is not everything, but without an apartment everything is nothing.

This is the reason for the self-help building project in Oderberger Strae 12, an essential element of the struggle against the structural apartment shortage in Berlin. The structural lack of affordable living space and the withdrawal by the municipality of Berlin from support for the building of rental flats make the need for self-help urgent. In the framework of the “Landesprogramms Wohnungspolitische Selbsthilfe” (the state program of a policy for housing self-support), mob renovated a building in the “Grnderzeit” (1871).

This project was undertaken between 1999 and 2003 in cooperation with formerly homeless people working under professional guidance and on their own initiative. Eighteen living units and two spaces for non-profit businesses were created. For the first time in Berlin, a homeless people’s self-supporting project is hence able to offer permanent cheap living space. Oderberger Strae 12 proved it is possible to realize an ambitious renovation project with homeless people, meeting all quality standards and deadlines. The next step will be to innovatively interact with the neighbourhood.

7. Funding and support

Mob – obdachlose machen mobil e.V. works to raise the issues of the problems of homelessness and the apartment shortage, inform the public about social, cultural and
political issues, and enable, support, and critically supervise cooperation between homeless and non-homeless people.

Mob exclusively and directly pursues non-profit charity goals according to the paragraph (Steuerbegnstigte Zwecke) of the “Abgabenordnung.” It acts without self interest and does not primarily aim for economical goals.

In order to achieve its goals and develop and maintain its projects, mob depends on various forms of support including voluntary work, donations for the “Trdelpoint,” and financial support for the emergency shelter and ongoing expansion projects. Charity events or other forms of cooperation in a mutually beneficial manner are also possible.

living on the street

Poor people, especially the homeless, own nothing they are not wearing, and have no opportunity to produce anything lasting. Most items are lost somewhere in fights. For the long stretch of road between daily warming houses, emergency shelters, the Christmas party, clothing run, social welfare office, ambulant medical emergency supply, and the soup-kitchen, one needs physical training, great footwear, profound timetable knowledge, and most of all permanent mobility. Everyone is welcome, but not much is offered: insipid soups, some socks, and sometimes a little conversation, advice or entertainment. When the cold is very bad, bunkers and underground stations are opened but are uninviting for long stays. Poor people have no choices. Those who fail to show up on time are down on their luck and must stay outside and fight for survival. Maybe they beg some euros or take a train until morning to get two or three hours of sleep.

Life outside means living with the permanent danger of being assaulted or set on fire. The lucky ones can try again the next day. Exhausted and soon completely burned out, homeless people hardly have any other options than involuntarily proving the prejudice that it is their own fault in the end, that you cannot help them and they deserve it. And this is how homeless people come to the most obvious idea: to move into empty houses or other places where they want to stay. They can be sure to be driven away sooner or later because the misery should only be visible for a short time. The so-called winter help for homeless people is another word for freezing to death on the money-saving organized
installment plan. If not this winter, then the next, which is definitely going to come.

Generally speaking, the living situation of homeless people is marked by the far-reaching exclusion of social participation and a breakdown of individual activities, and individually perceived lack of options and perspectives. Creative survival strategies go together with permanent challenges. The living situation supports a dependence on charitable help offers and (because of missing financial resources) lends to latent tendency on small criminal acts (theft, theft of food, joy rides). Social relations are lost or limited to functional contacts to people in the same situation and professional helpers. Sexual relations or partnerships are only possible under very limited conditions or take place as prostitution. Competences are lost and qualifications are depreciated. Drug problems (often as a strategy of handling and coming to terms with their living situation) arise or develop. Physical burdens (cold, weather, insufficient food supply, drugs) lead to serious and lasting health damage. Lasting periods in situations like these often lead to mental abnormities, the loss of motivation and meaning of life, resignation, lethargy, or individual protest (the I-dont-care effect”). Getting out of this situation or changing (improving) it is harder the longer it lasts.

(10) Contacts
mob-obdachlose machen mobil e.V.
Prenzlauer Allee 87
10405 Berlin-Germany
Tel.: 0049-30/46 79 46 11
Fax: 0049-30/46 79 46 13

editorial office and sale:
Prenzlauer Allee 87
10405 Berlin-Germany
Tel.: 0049-30/ 46 79 46 11
Fax.: 0049-30/ 46 79 46 13

emergency-shelter and meeting point:
Prenzlauer Allee 87
10405 Berlin-Germany,
Tel.: 0049-30/ 46 79 46 11
Fax.: 0049-30/ 46 79 46 13
trdelprojekt (junk-project):
Prenzlauer Allee 87
10405 Berlin -Germany
Tel.: 0049-30/ 246 279 35
Tel.: 0049-30/ 46 79 46 13

building and apartments project:
Oderberger Strae 12
10435 Berlin-Germany
15 386 Nz- Amtsgericht Charlottenburg
public utility:
Finanzamt fr Krperschaften I
(tax-number): 672/ 51 757
Dr. Stefan Schneider
Jutta Welle
Andreas Brodthuhn
board of directors
o treasurer: Ronald Hegert
o members: we now have 17 members, 12 of whom were formerly homeless