COVID-19 lockdown hits Berlin’s unemployed, homeless and refugees


Names marked with an asterisk* have been modified to guard identities. 

Berlin, Germany – The previous two weeks have been troublesome for Diana*, who arrived in Berlin from Switzerland a couple of months in the past.

She was nearly making ends meet with a instructing job and a few modelling work, when the outbreak of the brand new coronavirus upended her day by day life, making her weak living state of affairs extra precarious.

She has been let go from her instructing function and with out the backing of a contract, which she says her boss refused to offer, Diana is just not positive she is going to even obtain her excellent paycheque.

She has but to register in her new metropolis, so accessing social safety assist can also be not an possibility for the 25-year-old. 

“Everything happened really quickly,” Diana advised Al Jazeera. “A week before things were shut down, I fell sick, and just after that, my boss told me to come and collect my stuff because I wasn’t going to be teaching for five weeks at least. And that was it. Switzerland isn’t part of the EU [European Union], and that makes things harder – right now I can’t get support from there or from Germany.”

Diana contacted an area for which she had as soon as modelled. Located within the east of the town, Karada House has gone from being a queer collaborative artwork area that holds workshops and occasions, to a volunteer-led reduction collective offering help to those that have slipped via the cracks of the nation’s welfare system. 

In simply a few weeks, the handful of housebound volunteers – most of whom have by no means met, have raised nearly 10,000 euros ($11,027) via a crowdfunding marketing campaign.

They have additionally been connecting volunteers to folks within the metropolis in want of meals, medical or psychological well being assist.

Beatrice Behn, a volunteer coordinator and artist, advised Al Jazeera: “We are principally coping with younger individuals who have power diseases or are disabled, or those that have already got very fragile conditions.

“Many of them are slipping through the net because they are not German, or because of the city’s housing problems. People are desperate to find a flat, so are living in sublets or with semi-legal housing contracts, which means they can’t fully register here and access any services.”

Alongside neighbourhood teams providing assist to those that are sick, aged or in want of childcare, others present sources for intercourse staff, providing video remedy classes, and work to guard the town’s cultural scene, together with its clubbing business and humanities group.

Al Jazeera additionally spoke to a schoolteacher who is worried that college students in his major faculty class – primarily from decrease financial or minority German backgrounds – could fall behind, so he’s doing particular person classes by way of telephone.

Diana, who will use the cash she obtained from Karada to cowl a few of her month-to-month hire and meals, hopes the solidarity continues.

For Wilhelm Nadolny, the lockdown has meant that on daily basis on the homeless day centre he manages has been completely different.

Nadolny is the director at Bahnhofsmission Zoologischer Garten, a shelter subsequent to a busy central station.

It’s a part of Berliner Stadtmission, which for nearly 150 years has been offering help to seniors, refugees and kids, making it one of many metropolis’s oldest social assist centres. 

Without housing to self-isolate, entry to healthcare and restricted toilet amenities, these living on the streets are significantly weak.

According to Berlin’s first official census on its homeless inhabitants revealed earlier this 12 months, there are nearly 2,000 folks living on the streets within the German capital. 

Social staff, nevertheless, say that the determine must be met with warning because it would not embrace these living on non-public properties or in deserted buildings.

With the ban on massive gatherings quickly shutting homeless day centres, Nadolny says they’re seeing some new faces.

His 24-hour centre is often open seven days every week, all 12 months spherical, and sustained by numerous aged volunteers.

But aged volunteers now not are available in, and the centre, which often helps round 600 folks day by day, is operating on decreased hours with assist from a smaller, youthful workforce.

Prior to the pandemic, the primary consuming space may maintain 60 folks, together with 10 volunteers, and toilet entry was simpler.

Now meals baggage with sandwiches, apples and plums are being handed out from a window and distribution occasions are staggered to restrict human contact.

“Everybody here is trying to keep calm and focused. We are washing our hands regularly and using sanitiser, and the shower is being used less. We are taking each day as it comes and doing our best,” stated Nadolny. “We can’t say what will be waiting for us next week, or even tomorrow.”


Other high-risk Berlin residents are these living in refugee lodging.

According to state authorities, there are 20,000 folks living inside 83 shelters, and most have a most capability of 350.

There have thus far been 10 optimistic coronavirus circumstances rising from throughout the metropolis’s shelters, with one loss of life.

Across Germany, a reported 21 folks living in refugee lodging have already contracted the virus. 

The State Office for Refugee Affairs in Berlin advised Al Jazeera that it has carried out a collection of measures, together with offering data on hygiene and stressing the significance of the quarantine, and a podcast in numerous languages is being developed.  

Activists, nevertheless, say extra must be accomplished to cut back the dangers for these living in insufficient shared housing.

A spokeswoman for Women in Exile, a refugee-led grassroots organisation, advised Al Jazeera: “It’s difficult for us to know what’s going on. Not enough official material is being translated and there’s a lot of fear, but people don’t have any alternative.”

The pandemic has additionally elevated nationwide calls to shut massive refugee shelters and home folks in safer, cleaner houses.

As residents within the German capital regulate to an indefinite interval behind closed doorways, these on the entrance line say group assist is required greater than ever.

“It’s a very human thing to do, to come together as a community in times of crisis and in a way we are going back to the roots right now, which is very good to see because we are all in this together,” stated Behn, the Karada House volunteer. “I think most people have realised that there are no exceptions with the virus, so things now need to change.”

Berlin homeless shelter

With aged volunteers now not coming in, the homeless centre has fewer volunteers and has needed to scale back its service hours [Gouri Sharma/Al Jazeera]