Starting a new and better life

The project Housing First für Frauen (Housing First for Women) assists homeless women in getting away from homelessness with their own lease agreements and reliable advisory services. Impressed by the idea and by the provider, Deutsche Wohnen contributes to the project in cooperation with Sozialdienst katholischer Frauen e. V. Berlin, or SkF for short. After approximately one year of cooperation, Shari Jasmin Becker, who is responsible at Deutsche Wohnen for housing placement, makes an absolutely positive interim assessment on the part of Deutsche Wohnen. In an interview, the deputy head of the Letting team at Deutsche Wohnen Immobilien Management GmbH explains what makes Housing First für Frauen so special.

Ms Becker, how many women have already been lifted out of homelessness thanks to the project?

I am delighted to say that, over the space of approximately a year, we have already been able to help 15 homeless women secure an apartment. This is especially pleasing because it looks like all the women have so far succeeded in starting a new life as a result too. It is certainly looking very good, at least.

What sets Housing First apart from other initiatives of this kind?

With other support programmes for the homeless, getting your own apartment is usually the ultimate goal rather than the first step. Housing First takes the opposite approach and says that having your own, safe apartment is a prerequisite for independently creating a new existence for yourself and taking the necessary steps for this such as undergoing therapy or finding a job. The women are only given assistance in their day-today lives if this is something they explicitly want. This promotes independence too.

How do the women find their way to you and to SkF?

In a variety of ways. Some of them turn to the project Evas Haltestelle (Eva’s Stop), which enables homeless women to meet their basic needs in the areas of food, sleep, personal hygiene and laundry. The staff then bring Housing First to their attention. Others learn about it from a flyer or from a tip from their social worker. What all the women have in common is that they have fallen through the gaps in the social care system or are ashamed to make use of government assistance.

A good tradition

Deutsche Wohnen has now been working with various social agencies that find housing for people in difficult social situations for eight years. In recent years, these have included:

Finding housing for women:
Caritas project NeuRaum – Wohnen nach dem Frauenhaus (NewSpace – Life After the Women’s Shelter) | Hestia e. V. for women in violent situations

Support for young refugees and housing placement:
KJHV Berlin-Brandenburg | JaKuS e. V. | Pad gGmbH

Why was the decision made to focus on women?

We don’t just help women – this is the case only in relation to our cooperation with Sozialdienst katholischer Frauen e. V. Berlin. The fact that SkF focuses on women is given away in German in its full title. In addition, this SkF project is run exclusively by women, which makes it easier for women seeking assistance to initiate contact. What’s more, it is estimated that women account for between 25% and 30% of all homeless people. But we do also assign apartments to homeless men as part of our collaboration with Housing First Berlin.

Are there specific reasons why women end up homeless?

Yes, and we weren’t even aware of some of them before embarking on this collaboration. For example, it is often the man in a relationship who signs the lease agreement, which means it is the woman who has to leave the apartment when the relationship ends. Then there are more familiar reasons such as violence in the relationship or being made unemployed. What’s striking is that, with many homeless women, you can’t tell by looking at them that they have no home. They invest a great deal of time and energy in concealing this fact, quite simply because they are ashamed.

An important question in conclusion: are there plans for the future?

Yes, we will definitely continue with the project – among other things because our colleagues in Letting really are a great support, telling us when an apartment which would be especially suitable becomes available.

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