THE NEW NORMAL ON SOCIAL FRIDAY
the shower mobile for homeless women in Berlin
Black Friday, Cyber Week or Singles Day: November is the month of discount battles, from which one's own wallet in particular does not come out unscathed. That's why we took this month as an opportunity to rethink old traditions and establish The New Normal . Why? Because we think these days should be a lot more social. Because consumption has the power to change the world. So instead of throwing ourselves into the digital chaos and buying things that you don't really need, we introduced the Social Friday Weeks . Buy good and do good - it sounds as simple as it is. Let's do more together!
For every purchase made between November 12-28, we will donate a bar of soap to homeless organizations that advocate for dignified access to hygiene. We would like to introduce one of these organizations to you today. We spoke to Ella and Tabea, social workers for the Social Service of Catholic Women in Berlin (SkF) at the “ Shower Mobile for Women ”, about the idea of the project and the situation of homeless women in Germany.
Explain briefly: What is the shower mobile anyway?
The "Shower mobile" project is a low-threshold offer in women-specific homeless assistance as part of outreach street social work. Homeless women are reached with the shower mobile on Berlin's streets and squares where they live or where they occasionally stay. The shower mobile aims to be a shelter for homeless women on the street, giving them the opportunity to shower in peace, sort themselves and receive fresh clothes, as well as hygiene items such as toothbrushes, masks and tampons.
How did the idea for the shower mobile come about and why did you decide to open it exclusively for women?
A private donor, Matthias Müller from Workerfashion, was inspired by the Paris model MOBIL'douche, then converted a car into the current shower mobile and handed it over to the SkF Berlin for operation in 2019. We want to bring our offers of help to women who do not yet know where they can get help. In addition, they receive basic care from us as far as possible. In addition, we offer a protection zone and a space for rest and relaxation from everyday life, which is often life-threatening and characterized by attacks and cold. Living on the streets, women are constantly at risk of physical, especially sexual, and psychological violence.
What does a day with the shower mobile look like?
Before the tour with the shower mobile can start, the fresh water tank has to be filled up and the waste water drained. To do this, the social workers go to a campsite. As soon as the 270 liter tank is filled, it goes to the SkF day care center to collect donations such as fresh underwear, socks and shampoo . Fully packed, the respective locations are now approached, which can always be viewed on our website. At the site, women are now able to take a shower, seek advice and obtain important hygiene items. After the shower, everything is cleaned and disinfected and the shower is ready for the next visitor.
Why is your work so important? What do you enable the women who come to you?
Due to the low threshold of the project, many hurdles are removed. The women do not have to fulfill any preconditions or participate in any special way. Everyone can use the shower mobile. This is so important because they are visited in the places where they are, so there is no need to go to hygiene facilities. By using the shower, visitors can get in touch with the social workers and gradually build a relationship of trust . The basic goal is to enable the women to have a good life while homeless and to offer them help to get out of their situation.
Tell us about a special moment when you work with the shower mobile.
There are many touching moments that we experience with the most diverse women in the shower mobile. It's nice when visitors step out of the shower visibly refreshed and feel comfortable in their bodies again. Then we feel her confidence returning. This is our greatest joy. If the visitor wants, we can then spend time with her in the car and offer her the opportunity to talk. Water, dignity, well-being - that's the motto of the shower mobile and that's exactly what we want to make possible for our visitors.
What is the situation of homeless women in Germany and do you think that enough is being done to support and protect homeless people?
Due to hidden homelessness and the associated communities of convenience, in which sexual assaults are unfortunately not uncommon, it is particularly important to focus on women-specific help for the homeless . Prevention offers should be the first maxim of any action. But the lack of affordable housing is also a problem. There is a great need for action here. In addition, there should be more needs-based and women-specific offers, and the existing ones must be expanded. And women should ensure that if they move in together with their partner, they get a joint lease so that they are not the first to lose the apartment when they separate. In addition, jobs in the low-wage sector must be better paid so that there is enough money to rent an apartment and live well.
What are your tips on how each one of us can contribute to improving the situation of people in need?
It's the everyday things that are so important. Meet people at eye level and don't look away. If you want to give something, ask what the person needs right now. Maybe it's a roll or clothes, maybe it's cash. Many people are also just happy about a friendly "Hello" or a conversation. But especially now in the cold season it is all the more important to be attentive. If you come across a homeless person who doesn't seem to be doing well, ask if they can be reached. Ask if help is needed. A heat bus can take the person to an emergency overnight shelter if they wish. If the person spoken to does not respond, provide first aid and call an ambulance. Donations to homeless organizations can also help. It is best to ask beforehand whether and what is needed and only donate donations in kind of a quality that you would accept yourself.