Schneider, Stefan:

self – help project promoted by poor homeless people: mob e.V./ strassen|feger.

Berlin/ Barcelona 2004


(0) starting-point of our work
(1) mob e.V. - aims and offers
(2) strassen|feger - street paper
(3) kaffee bankrott - meeting point
(4) not|übernachtung - shelter
(5) oderberger straße 12 – self helping building project and apartment house
(6) trödel|point "junkpoint" & möbel|point "furniturepoint" - second-hand shops
(7) edv - department of information and technology
(8) funding and supports
(9) living on the street , instead a foreword

(0) starting-point of our work

The reason for establishing our association was, and is still there: The continuous poverty of significant parts of the population - which is shown in its most hard form by homeless people.

The problem of urgent housing shortage is further engraving, despite asseverations from the housing industry and from some political parties. The current status in Berlin is approximately 7.000 - 10,000 persons without a safe domicile. They live in official halls of residence, in emergency accommodations, shelters, unsecured housing conditions or are living in the streets. Once again, since 2004, the number of homeless people in Berlin rises.

(1) mob e.V. - aims and offers

In order to support these people in the aspect of keeping a worthy life and with the development of the person's own perspectives, has mob e.V. – “make homeless people mobile” e.V. (situated in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin) different specific projects that are described on the following pages. All these projects pursue the goal of “self-help” and encourage own responsibility. The participating people have the possibility to run their own projects through the association, and even to create their own new home.

“The goal of the association is to improve the living conditions of socially disadvantaged and excluded persons, in particular of homeless people or persons threatened by homelessness. The organisation should make it possible for these persons to work in areas that are in their own interests and of meaning to them, and by doing so developing and improving living conditions for them." (from § 2 of the mob e.V. charter)

In the last few years we have developed, in the spirit of the above-mentioned statement, different projects and models of work within the network of the organisation. These are:

1. The homeless street paper "strassen|feger"
The street paper “strassen|feger” is sold by the homeless and the needy, and is an important economic source for the poor and homeless. This well-arranged and minimally regulated activity strengthens the vendors' sense of personal responsibility and confidence, and also gives them a chance to improve their financial situation.

2. "Kaffee Bankrott –meeting point"
Kaffee Bankrott (“café bankruptcy”) is open 7 days a week between 8pm – 8am and is, for many, a natural meeting point. Several different meals are offered daily, as well as free Internet, newspapers, games and general social and legal advice. more..

3. The emergency shelter
The emergency overnight accommodation "Notübernachtung" is open 7 days a week, all year round. With separate sleeping apartments for men and women, the shelter offers the chance for a hot shower, and the guests are able to wash their laundry. Dogs are allowed.

4. Oderberger Straße 12
The self-help house, „Selbsthilfehaus” located on Oderberger Straße 12, also in Prenzlauer Berg, offers 18 fixed-priced apartments between 40 - 90m2, as well as housing two project offices (bookkeeping and our second-hand shop). This project makes it possible for homeless and poor people to create new housing for which they are personally responsible, and by giving the homeless sustainable and affordable living conditions contributes substantially to the fight against homelessness. 

5. Trödelpoint
The secondhand shops, Trödel|point at Prenzlauer Allee 87, and Möbel|point at Fröbelstraße 17, offer, besides all kinds of second hand things (except clothes), first aid furniture-help for homeless people who have just received an apartment.

6. and department of technology
The website is for communication with interested members of the public and for making the work of the association available to a wider audience.
The EDV-department is responsible for all technology and computer education in mob e.V.

(2) strassen|feger - street paper

The street paper “strassen|feger”- “street sweeper” offers a forum for the most current and urgent social issues to be published and discussed. It offers economic improvement for the vendors and is at the same time a creative tool for salesmen, should they choose to publish their own texts or articles.

A new copy of the paper appears every second week--in total 26 editions per year--and a vendor will sell an average of 20 to 22,000 copies. The editorial team meets weekly in a public editorial meeting, where content, expectations and ideas are discussed. This guarantees constant up-to-date topics.

The organisation sells the paper to the vendors (for 0,4 € ), and then the vendors to the public (for 1,2 €). Current sale locations are Bahnhof Zoo, Ostbahnhof and Treffpunkt Kaffee Bankrott(2), located at Prenzlauer Allee 87.

The situation of the vendors varies widely. Some are without a house, some in financial difficulty, but in all cases the “strassen|feger” makes it possible for these people to earn a bit of money to help improve the situation.  

The purpose and aim of selling the paper is to make it possible for the vendors to earn money. Selling “strassen|feger” is an alternative to begging and makes it possible for poor and homeless people to keep their dignity.

Apart from the general rules, the vendors are free to decide much of their work for themselves. Each vendor decides where and when to work. The general rules of “strassen|feger”, which each vendor must agree to, are that:

  • The law against selling on public transport (underground and commuter trains) is to be observed
  • It is not allowed to sell the paper under the influence of any drug
  • Disrupting passersby and colleagues is forbidden
  • The use of force and/or threats automatically leads to exclusion
  • The vendor is obligated to report himself to the social and labour office if the allowed earnings are exceeded

Approximately 60 - 80 people sell the “strassen|feger” regularly in Berlin and Brandenburg. Typical sale locations are shopping centres, supermarkets, in front of train stations, in public squares and at public events.

We do not control the sales and can therefore not guarantee a location where you can find the paper. If you are interested in buying the “strassen|feger”, we kindly ask you to contact us. 

(3) kaffee bankrott - meeting point

On Prenzlauer Allee 87 in Berlin - Prenzlauer Berg (diagonal opposite the S-Bahn station “Prenzlauer Allee” – on the Ring), is the association mob e.V. offering a public meeting point, “Kaffee Bankrott”. The most guests are vendors, people involved in the association, or guests that stays in the shelter. Dogs are allowed and “Café Bankrupt” is adapted for handicapped. The meeting point is open all year, 7 days a week, between 8:00 and 20:00 o'clock.

The Café Bankrupt offers:

  • Social contact and the possibility to start your self-help
  • Internet and computers to use free of charge
  • A place to stay and to keep warm
  • Coffee, tea and other drinks for a affordable price
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner to buy for a production price
  • Happenings and exhibitions
  • General social consultation; every Tuesday between
  • 2 pm and 5 pm, free of charge
  • General legal advice given by an attorney; every
  • Monday between 1 pm and 3 pm (except on vacation and holiday )

In order to ensure the open atmosphere in the “Kaffee Bankrott”, the following rules apply:

  • no threat or use of force
  • no sexual abuse
  • no consumption or influence of drugs

mob e.V. operates “Kaffee bankrupt” with volunteers and with private donations, without governmental support. All the things we offer free of charge in the café are paid by the association, and from the gifts and donation that are given to us, this is a motto we use, which allow everyone to pay what they can afford for the services.

We see the café as a place of refuge, in case of acute crises and when one has problem. We want to offer everyone in need, as far as our possibility allows us, help to self-help. This means that the meeting place is open for everyone that comes.

(4) notübernachtung - shelter

Our all year round emergency overnight shelter, “Notübernachtung”, is situated at Prenzlauer Allee 87 in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. It was created in order to offer our street paper sellers an emergency place to sleep. It has now developed in to a place that is open for everyone in need, and has place for 16 guests. The stay is general limited to 8 weeks, but in exceptional cases is extension possible.

In the “Notübernachtung” there is beds for 11 men and 5 women divided in two in separate rooms. It is possible for the guests, after arrangement, to bring dogs. During the winter four extra beds are available, in order to welcome as many as possible. The association mob e.V. is running the shelter without any support from the state, and therefore need to take a admission of 1,50 € per Night, and for this price we are offering: 

  • Wash/showering possibilities (showering gel, shampoo,  shaving things, creams, etc. free of charge)
  • Washing of laundry
  • Use of the dress chamber
  • Internet free of charge
  • Special prices in the meeting place “Kaffee Bankrott”
  • Consultation and support in contact with authorities
  • Assistance in the search for an apartment

The rules of the “Notübernachtung” are:

  • no threat or use of force
  • no sexual abuse
  • no consumption, influence or possession of drugs
  • No bed smoking
  • Quiet after midnight

The emergency overnight accommodation is opened 7 days a week, between 19 - 23 o'clock is the door for the guests open, and the guest should leave 10 o'clock the following day. Between 9 am and 23 pm are the co-workers of the “Notübernachtung” available to help out with registration or consultation.

(5) oderberger straße – self helping building project and apartment house

An apartment is not everything - however without one, is everything nothing.

For this reason is the self-help house in Oderberger Straße 12 an important part in the fight of the current problem of housing shortage in Berlin. The current housing shortage is due to lack of inexpensive apartments and the stop of state involvement in the housing industry, therefore is self-help in this case urgently necessary.

In 1999 mob e.V. received the rights to a land, and sign a contract, which stretches  for a period of 50 years. There was already two houses on the land but they were old and in urgent need of renovation. The work was preformed with help of money from the “Landesprogramms Wohnungspolitische Selbsthilfe” (state program of a policy for housing self-help) and with help of engagement work from former homeless under guidance and supervision of professional architects and construction workers, and lasted until May 2003. 

The result is a house with 18 apartments and 2 offices. In the offices is all the associations’ bookkeeping, the administration of the house and a second-hand shop run, and all of the apartments are currently rented to people in different special situations. This project has shown that it is possible for a self-help association like mob e.V. to be able to build up, manage limits and dead-lines and run a entire house with the help of “self-helpers”, and lead to next step, that are being built up at the moment: integration and activities in the neighbourhood. The fact that the association do all administration of the building, results in a close contact with the residents and support in their way of handling the situation.   

(6) trödel|point "junkpoint" & möbel|point "furniturepoint" - second-hand shops

The second-hand shops, trödel|point, at Prenzlauer Allee 87, and möbel|point at Fröbelstraße 17, offers, besides all kinds of second hand things (except clothes), a first aid furniture-help for homeless that just received their apartment. The former homeless people get all they need for their new life with thing for the kitchen, furniture etc., all paid through the association by the social authority. The project also serves as help for the citizens that needs to get rid of their heavy furniture by picking them up at their home.

The things that are given to us are picked up, repaired, cleaned and then given to people in need, this concept help to protect the environment. The project does not only help the environment, but also creates working opportunities.

Most of the workers are MAEs or so called 1-Euro-Jobers or ASS (work instead of punishment), they have the opportunity to use their abilities and talents the Trödel/Möbel|point.

(7) edv - department of information and technology

Computers and the Internet are now indispensable tools and sources of information, and are used in all the different projects and department of mob e.V. The EDV-department work consists of maintenance, repair and support computers (including printers, server etc.). In addition the competence in the department is used to make the telephone system, the photocopiers and data security work.

The EDV helps to deliver, when possible, used computers to people that normal not have the chance to buy one, but need one.

In addition to all this the department of information and technology is responsible and are teaching all employees how to handle the computers and how to work with the Internet.

(8) funding and supports

“mob e.V. – ‘make homeless people mobile’ aim to fight the problem of homelessness and to put it on the agenda. The association intends to do this by looking at the cultural, social and politic background of the problem and to have a good co-operation between homeless and non-homeless people, with support and critical accompany. “(from § 2 in  the article of the association of mob e.V.)

“mob e.V. – ‘make homeless people mobile’ has an aim of an own non-profitable business, according to national regulations and should work in the sense of non-self gaining interest. “(from § 3 in  the article of the association of mob e.V.)

In order to achieve these aims, to develop and maintain the projects, the association depends on various forms of support, i.e. voluntary work, donations to the “trödel|point” ,, financial funding for the “Notübernachtung”, and private donation to the association, the project “Ein Dach über dem Kopf”- ‘Roof over the head’ is at the moment a campaign that mob e.V organize.

Some charity-events have been arranged, as well as cooperation with others organizations and companies, where there is a mutual benefit. We are happy to issue a document of proof for donation, on request.

(9) living on the street, instead a foreword

Poor people especially homeless do not own anything than they are wearing and they have no chance to produce something lasting, instead the most things goes loosing somewhere on the small and big flights. For the expellee stretch of road between daily warming house and emergencyshelter, christmasparty and clothing run and social welfare office, ambulant medical emergency-supply and soup-kitchen. You need phsycical training a great footwear, profound time-table-knowledge and first of all: permanent mobility. Everybody are wellcome, but not much are offered: Insipid soups, some socks and sometimes a little converstation, an advice or intertainment. When the cold is very bad, bunkers and underground station are being opened but it does not invite to staying there for a long time. Poor people do not have other choices. People that do not show up in time are down on their luck. Then they have to stay outside and have to fight for suvivar. Maybe they get begging some euros or they take a train until the morning to get some sleep for 2-3 hours.

A life outside means living with the permant danger of being deprivated, assaulted or set on fire. The lucky ones can try again the next day. Exhausted like this and soon being completely burned out, homeless people hardly have any other options than involuntarily to prove the prejudice that it is their own fault in the end, you cannot help them and they deserve it. And this is how the homeless people get 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 very short time. The so-calles 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 one, which is definatly going to come.

Generally speaking: the living situation of homeless people is marked by the far-reading exclusion of social participation and a break-down of individual activities. The cipation and a break-down of individually percieved lack of options and usually lacking perspectieves. Cretive survinging strategies go together with permanent challenges, the living situation supports a dependence on supply-and helpoffers and boards as well as (because of missing financial resources) a latent tendency to small criminal acts (theft, theft of food, joy-rides). Social relations are lost or usually 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 prostutition. Competences are lost and qualifications are depreciated. Problems with drugs (often as a strategy of handling and coming to terms with their living situation) arise or develop, physical burdens (cold, weather, unsufficiant foodsupply, drugs) lead to serious, partly lasting, health damages. The lasting whereabouts in structurs like these often lead to mental abnormities, the loss of motivation and meaning with life, resignation, lethargy or individual protest (the I-don´t-careeffect”). Getting out of this situation or changing (improving) it is getting harder the longer it lasts.

stefan schneider


(translation by Klas Ståhl. Thanx again!)
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