Social Senator Elke Breitenbach presents new guidelines for homelessness policy. This gives hope to many. A weekly commentary.
Will Social Senator Elke Breitenbach (Left) be able to fulfill all hopes? Photo: dpa
So now the results are in. In January 2018, Social Senator Elke Breitenbach (Left) invited everyone who was somehow involved in the issue of homelessness to a strategy conference. Nine working groups and a second strategy conference later, she presented the new guidelines for homelessness policy to the Senate on Tuesday. If it remains with what Breitenbach has made public of the draft, then one can say: Berlin is taking a giant step forward in terms of homelessness policy.
Surpassing the previous guidelines, however, was not that difficult. They date back to 1999. Both reality and legal requirements have changed since then. However, there are actually many things in the paper that would be real innovations in the interests of the housing and homeless people.
Take rent debts, for example: The job centers are responsible for taking them over, and they handle this differently, as do the districts’ social housing assistance services. Certainly not a few Berliners have been evicted from their homes simply because of bad arrangements. There should be Berlin-wide guidelines and controls. Specialized agencies in all districts are to ensure that people do not become homeless in the first place.
And there are many more plans: For example, the cold aid should be able to coordinate its work not only in winter, but all year round. Breitenbach wants to offer permanent housing for the sick. There are also to be more emergency shelters for women and families – as well as more porter housing in general. In January, the social administration wants to have the homeless counted on the streets, which would provide approximate figures for the first time – and a basis for discussion.
How serious the red-red-green coalition is about the reorientation will soon become clear.
In view of these announcements, it is not surprising that representatives from the homeless aid sector are reacting euphorically. Robert Veltmann of the social service provider Gebewo, who has been working in the field for many years, calls the guidelines "great." When reading the draft, he had real "feelings of happiness". And Kai-Gerrit Venske, specialist for homeless assistance at Caritas, also calls the guidelines "a giant step" toward a sustainable policy.
For all the approval, however, there is also criticism: According to Venske, central issues in dealing with homeless EU citizens remain unresolved. Robert Veltmann misses concrete targets – for example, a stipulation that 90 percent of people at risk of losing their homes should receive outreach counseling. Such targets were missing from the paper.
But the enthusiasm clearly prevails. Whether it continues now depends on Elke Breitenbach: She must also implement the planned measures. Many of them cost money. How serious the red-red-green coalition really is about its new homeless policy will soon become clear: Starting in August, the House of Representatives will discuss the 2020/2021 double budget.