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Helping homeless people in Berlin: Shelters, contact points, who to call

Winter is coming — and it will hit homeless people, in Berlin and beyond, hardest. This year, on top of everything else, there’s a pandemic to contend with. Staying home isn’t an option if you don’t have one. The breakdown of daily routines and disintegration of support networks pose particular challenges for people affected by homelessness. There’s never been greater need to support Berlin’s homeless community. Here’s our guide to doing your bit.

The situation for homeless people in Berlin is particularly dire during winter and the corona pandemic. But there are several ways to help. Photo: Imago Images/IPON

How can we help homeless people in Berlin this winter? Many shelters and facilities are still open, albeit with reduced capacity. Our editors gathered a list of support services for homeless people, with information on contact points for accommodation, medical care and food.

Kältebus und Wärmebus

Established in 1995 by Berliner Stadtmission, the Kältebus (literally ‘cold bus’) provides homeless people with shelter from bitter temperatures, and helps those who can no longer make it to emergency shelters under their own steam.

The Wärmebus (‘warm bus’) is the equivalent of the German Red Cross. The buses run from evening to night every year between November 1st and March 31st. You can ask vulnerable homeless people if they need help or want to be taken to an emergency shelter. If they do, call the Kältebus or Wärmebus.

In case of acute danger to life, contact emergency services instead of the buses. Due to the limited number of beds in emergency shelters this year, a Suppenbus (‘soup bus’), also run by the Stadtmission, will drive through Berlin providing homeless people with warm food and drinks from 7pm to 11pm.

  • Kältebus (Berliner Stadtmission) 1st November – 31st March, on the road daily between 7pm-3am, Tel. 0178/523 58 38 (8.30pm-2.30am)
  • Wärmebus (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) 1st November – 31st March, on the road daily between 6pm-12am, Tel. 030/60 03 00 10 10

Emergency overnight accommodation: Shelter from the cold

Emergency shelters help homeless people. In addition to sleeping places, most of them also provide showers, medical and social services, and a break from the cold. Photo: Imago Images/Koall

Emergency shelters open to homeless people from the end of October to March/April. At numerous locations across Berlin, emergency overnight accommodation (Notübernachtungen) is available and food is distributed. In some cases, the facilities also help homeless people by providing medical care or personal hygiene. Here you can find an overview of all open emergency accommodation in Berlin.

  • Notübernachtung Lehrter Straße 68, Mitte, admission daily from 8pm. Social counselling Mon-Fri from 7am. Medical care Mon-Fri 9pm-midnight. Capacity: 8 women, 72 men. Special feature: Pet friendly and barrier free. Tel. 030/69 03 35 29
  • Notübernachtung Storkower Straße 133a, Pankow, admission daily from 7pm. Psychosocial and socio-educational care. Capacity: 100 men/women. Tel. 0163/480 91 58
  • Kältehilfeeinrichtung Kaiserdamm 3, Charlottenburg, capacity: 22 men, 18 women. Special feature: Pet friendly. Tel. 0151/68 82 87 82
  • Notübernachtung der Johanniter Ohlauer Straße 22, Kreuzberg, admission daily from 7pm. Medical care. Capacity: 48 men, 26 women. Special feature: Pet friendly. Tel. 030/50 56 25 40
  • Notübernachtung Berlin Wannsee Bergstraße 5, Wannsee, admission daily from 6.30pm. Capacity: 18 men/women
  • Notübernachtung Neustart Otto-Rosenberg-Str. 4-10, Marzahn, admission daily from 8pm. Capacity: 8 men, 2 women. Special feature: Barrier free. Tel. 030/93 66 87 39

Help for homeless people: Emergency shelters open all year round

A heated tent courtesy of the Berliner Stadtmission. Photo: Berlin City Mission

In addition to special winter services, emergency accommodation is available year-round for homeless people at various locations in Berlin. Many facilities offer the possibility of washing and showering, as well as medical assistance.

  • Notübernachtung am Containerbahnhof 1 (behind the Ring-Center Frankfurter Allee), Friedrichshain, daily admission from 8pm. Social counselling 4-5 times a week. Medical advice 3 times a week. Capacity: 20 women, 50 men. Special feature: pet friendly, low barrier. Tel. 030/66 62 87 70
  • Notübernachtung Franklinstraße 27a, Charlottenburg, Capacity: 16 men, 6 women. Tel. 030/391 27-22
  • Notbernachtung für wohnungslose Familien Wrangelstraße 12, Kreuzberg. Capacity: 30 men/women. Tel. 030/61 07 32 56
  • Notübernachtung für Frauen ‘Mitten im Kiez’ Petersburger Straße 92, Friedrichshain, admission daily from 6pm. Psychosocial and socio-educational care. Capacity: 8 women. Special feature: a stay of up to 14 days possible. Tel. 030/29 35 05 57

Shelters and facilities for women

Obdachlosen helfen in Berlin: Haustierfreundliche Notübernachtungszimmer für Frauen in Berlin. Foto: imago images/Christian Mang
Pet-friendly emergency overnight rooms for women in Berlin. Photo: imago images/Christian Mang

In addition to year-round shelters and cold weather accommodation, facilities for homeless women are of particular importance. These are aimed at homeless women, and are therefore different from women’s refuges.

If someone needs your advice or help, it’s worth having some contact points that you can recommend — or reach by phone to inquire about sleeping spaces. Women are also provided with hygiene products here. One of them is a hostel that provides some rooms for homeless women.

  • Winternotübernachtungen für wohnungslose Frauen Großbeerenstraße 17a, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, admission daily from 6pm. Capacity: 10 women. Tel. 0151/14866422
  • Notübernachtung Evas Obdach Fuldastraße 9, Neukölln, admission daily from 7pm. Capacity: 17 women. Special feature: Open all year. phone 030/477532670
  • Notübernachtung Jugendkulturzentrum ‘Pumpe’ Lützowstraße 42, Mitte, admission daily from 8pm. Capacity: 20 women. Special feature: pet friendly. Tel. 0151/68 82 87 82
  • Frauentreff OLGA Contact and advice centre for female drug users, trans women and sex workers, Kurfürstenstraße 40,
  • Notübernachtung Pfefferbett Hostel Christinenstr. 18-19, Prenzlauer Berg, admission daily from 6pm. Capacity: 14 women. Special feature: Barrier free. Tel. 0152/26355602 (In addition to the separate floor for women, rooms for homeless men are also provided).

Clothing stores and clothing donations

Obdachlosen helfen in Berlin: Spendenübergabe einer Kleiderkammer an einen Mitarbeiter des Kältebusses. Foto: Imago Images/Revierfoto
A Kältebus crew member sorts donated clothes and blankets. Photo: Imago Images/Revier photo

In addition to the larger organisations such as Caritas, the German Red Cross or Berliner Stadtmission, there are other places in the Berlin area where clothes can be donated. But please don’t just turn up with clothes to the shelter — check online in advance to see what’s needed to help homeless people.

  • Kleiderkammer der Berliner Stadtmission Lehrter Straße 68, Mitte, Mon-Fri 8am-2pm. Tel. 030/69033-30, check online in advance what is needed. Mainly men’s clothing accepted.
  • Kleiderkammer der Franziskaner/Franziskaner Kloster Wolkanstraße 19, Pankow, Tue, Thu, Fri 12.30pm-2.30pm (Opening hours for guests), Tue-Sat 8.30am-11.30am and Tue-Fri plus 12.30pm-2.30pm (Opening hours for clothing donors). Tel. 030/48 83 96 60, website.
  • Caritas Kleiderkammer Residenzstraße 90, Wedding, Mon-Fri 9am-1pm, Tel. 030/666 33 12 22, website.
  • Gesundheitszentrum für Obdachlose/Jenny de la Torre Pflugstraße 12, Mitte, Bring donations and clothes only after registration by telephone, Tel. 030/288 84 59 86, website.
  • Kleiderkammer des DRK-Kreisverband Berlin-Zentrum e.V. Gotzkowskystraße 8, Tiergarten, Tue, Thu 9am-12pm (opening hours for guests), Mon, Tue, Thu 9-12pm (opening hours for clothing donors), Tel. 030/600 300 51 32, website.

Medical assistance, care and hygiene

Obdachlosen helfen in Berlin: Ein Arztmobil der Caritas auf winterlichen Berliner Straßen. Foto: Imago Images/Koall
A Caritas mobile doctor on wintery Berlin streets. Photo: Imago Images/Koall

Some emergency shelters offer medical care, while medical assistance for people without health insurance is also available at many other locations. Mobile services for medical care or personal hygiene are also in operation.

  • Ambulanz der Berliner Stadtmission Lehrter Straße 68, Mitte, Tue 4pm-8pm, Fri 8am-12pm, Tel. 030/690 33 30
  • Praxis für obdachlose und bedürftige Menschen Stralauer Platz 32, Friedrichshain, general medical care Mon-Thu 9am-2pm, Fri 8am-1pm, Tel. 030/29668536, dental care Mon-Fri 9am-12pm, Tel. 030/29 04 75 41, website.
  • Caritas Arztmobil is a van converted into a treatment room, offering medical care and nursing. Tel. 0172/3073985, Caritas also provides special apartments for sick homeless people where they can recover.
  • Malteser Medizin für Menschen ohne Krankenversicherung (those without health insurance) Aachener Straße 12, Wilmersdorf, open consultation hours Tue-Fri 9am-2pm as well as appointment consultation hours for the specialist fields: general medicine, gynaecology, orthopaedics, paediatrics, dentistry, dermatology (opening hours may vary), phone 030/82 72 21 02, website.
  • Drogenkonsummobil Stuttgarter Platz, Charlottenburg (and other locations), distribution of utensils, medical supervision for those who inject drugs, immediate help in case of overdoses, medical and nursing advice, tel. 0170/794 87 45
  • KARUNA SUB – Buslinie für obdachlose Menschen Inter-district bus line for homeless people, as well as trips and professional assessments of potential Covid-19 infections in homeless people, Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Tel. 0157/86 60 50 80
  • Duschmobil für Frauen various locations, distribution of hygiene products and packed lunches. Locations and times: Mon 12pm-4pm, Schöneberg (Kurfürstenstraße/corner Frobenstraße); Tue 1pm-4pm, Friedrichshain (Ostbahnhof, Erich-Steinfurth-Straße); Wed 12.30pm-2pm, Neukölln (Christophorusgemeinde, Nansenstraße); Thu 2.30pm-4.30pm, Reinickendorf (Franz-Neumann-Platz, Schäfersee); Fri 11am-2pm, Kreuzberg (Passion Church, Marheinekeplatz), Tel. 0151/14648756, website
  • Hygienecenter (Stadtmission) Jebensstraße (Bahnhofsmission Zoo), Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Mon-Sun 10am-6pm, Tel. 030/313 80 88

Food and day services

In addition to hot soup, many facilities serve meals several times a day and offer the opportunity to spend a few hours in the warmth. Photo: imago images/Gottfried Czepluch

It’s not only nights that are long and cold when you’re homeless — the days are, too. At these locations in Berlin, meals and drinks are distributed several times a day.

  • AWO Kiez-Café Petersburger Straße 92, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. The day centre offers food, showers, a clothing store and leisure activities. The Kiez-Café serves as a contact point in case of crisis, but also as a meeting place. Day care centre Mon-Fri 11am-4pm, social counselling currently only available by appointment, donations of clothes and food are welcome, Tel. 030/29350556
  • Aktion Warmes Essen Pauluskirche, Kirchstraße 6, Zehlendorf. From October to March, warm food is offered three days a week in Pauluskirche. In addition, pastoral talks and social counselling are offered. Mon, Wed, Fri 12pm-2pm, Tel. 030/80 58 87 90
  • TagesTreff für Wohnungslose und Bedürftige Weitlingstraße 11, Lichtenberg, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9.30am-3.30pm, lounges, showers, computer access, food service Mon-Fri, breakfast 8am-9.30am, lunch 11.30am-1pm, dinner 3pm-4pm, Tel. 030/52 69 56 38
  • Seeling Treff Seelingstraße 9, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, day care centre for homeless people, food distribution, Mon-Wed 9am-2.30pm, Thu 9am-11am, Sat 9am-2.30pm, division into two groups (group 1: 9am-11.30am, group 2: 12pm-2.30pm (except Thu), Tel. 030/30 83 94 40
  • Suppenküche der Franziskaner (Franciscan monastery) Wollankstraße 18, Pankow, food distribution Tue-Sun 12.45pm-2.30pm, stays possible, Tel. 030/48 83 96 60
  • Tagesstätte ‘Am Wassertor’ (Diakonisches Werk) Segitzdamm 46, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, where to stay, food distribution, Mon, Fri, (Sat, once a month) 9am-2pm, Tue 9am-12pm, Tel. 030/615 63 24
  • Here you can find an overview of other food distribution points.

Corona hotline: Helping homeless people in the pandemic

Diese Telefonnummer kann obdachlosen Menschen in der Pandemie helfen: die Corona-Hotline ist 24/7 erreichbar. Foto: Imago Images/Alexander Limbach
This telephone number can help homeless people in the pandemic: the Corona Hotline is available 24/7. Photo: Imago Images/Alexander Limbach

In addition to transport, emergency accommodation and medical care, there’s a central hotline with information on Covid-19 support for homeless people, available 24/7, tel. 01578/80 59 78 70

Voluntary work and engagement to help homeless people in Berlin

Many facilities and institutions are organised on a voluntary basis or rely on the help of volunteers. Donations of clothes, food and money are welcome at almost all the institutions listed here. Please inform yourself in advance about the needs of the respective institution.

If you would like to become active in addition to this, to help with food, daily routines and aid programmes or to help homeless people in other ways, please check the websites of the respective institutions or call them. Support is needed everywhere.

In many places in the city there are also Gabenzäune (‘gift fences’) where donations of goods, clothes and hygiene can be placed for those in need. Here you can find an interactive map of the Gabenzäune locations in Berlin.

Original article by Emma Jelinski

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