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One finds traces of them
if you look closely: a crumpled white-gray fleece blanket on a bench
behind the Memorial Church. On another
Bank a second. They look like someone is still among them
warmed. A broken camping stool. A collection of empty bottles. "Here
were homeless, "says Freya, a member of the station mission. Now
are they gone

Freya is wearing a blue safety vest that night
with the imprint "Night of Solidarity" as we all do. She is 46 years old
and the only one of us in professional contact with the homeless. We, that's a team of six volunteers: a student, an intern, a controller,
Freya, our team leader Sophie and me. A few years ago
We saw each other for the first time. Now we're pulling together
Charlottenburg and looking for homeless people. It is 10 p.m. and luckily the announced rain has failed to materialize.

Comb through 2,601 from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Volunteers across the city. There were 3,700 registered, but many
didn't come. Full-time and volunteer specialists are
but also people who have never had contact with the homeless.
organizes its first nationwide with the help of these volunteers
homeless people. It is intended to be part of a comprehensive
Homelessness statistics, like social associations, have been for decades
Other cities in other countries have been counting since the early 1990s
regularly, especially in the United States. Europe has been following suit for several years.
now Berlin also wants to know how many people in the capital
and are homeless.

Just got to know a team: The group of volunteers with whom ZEIT-ONLINE editor Simone Gaul was traveling.
© Maja Hitij / Getty Images

We got an area nearby
assigned to the Zoo train station, one of 617 counting districts in the urban area. But how
do you start counting? Where are the homeless at all? Here in this area there is one expensive hotel next to the other. Illuminated shop windows and billboards try
Attracting attention. The streets are busy and bright, even at 10 p.m. We are looking for
rather the opposite: hiding places, protected places. Niches where people can hide.

A man shuffles into a bikini
Berlin. The shops in the shopping mall are already closed, but the
Some restaurants are still open. The man looks neglected, he has one
large bag with you, might be drunk. Is he homeless?

Nobody is woken up, nobody is asked for the name

All volunteers have one
Code of Conduct signed. We don't wake anyone, we don't take photos,
don't ask for names. The privacy of people should be preserved.
What nobody told us: How do we recognize our target group at all? homeless people
are not always just on the side of the road waiting for
to be counted. How do we find out if someone we think is homeless really lives on the street? How can we ask without hurting people?

While we're still considering how
we proceed, the man has disappeared. The project brings us into one tonight
contradictory situation: Since we came to help the homeless
count, we also want to find some. On the other hand, it would be
better to meet as few people as possible who spend the nights on the
Have to spend roads.

"Here, this house entrance could be one
Be a place to sleep, "says Toros, who works in a company's controlling. The entrance is
sheltered from the wind and quiet. Toros, 33, says that he and his wife are long
had pretty close contact with a homeless person who often stayed with them before
Sat at the front door and told him where he liked to sleep. We don't find anyone here.

Banks are also popular because of the
Areas with ATMs are often open around the clock. In the anteroom
In a savings bank we actually discover three young men on the
sitting on the low windowsill, one of them leaning forward with his head on, as
he would sleep. Freya wants to make the first contact, Toros takes that
Clipboard with our questionnaires, we go in a little uncertain.

Who are the people on the streets really?

The Senate administration hopes
from this evening not just a number but also a picture of who the people are
are on the streets. How old are they, how many women are there, how many
Men, how many diverse people? Which languages ​​do you speak? How long
are you already on the street? Do you live in groups or alone?

So far, the estimates for Berlin go far
apart, we're talking about 2,000 to 20,000 people. Without more precise numbers, however, it is difficult to respond to people's needs. According to the
Hope of the social organizations to enable a better coordinated offer of help. Social workers have been monitoring families with children for several years now
on the streets. Two emergency shelters especially for families then opened and are fully utilized. In Paris, the model for the Berlin action, showed
For example, after the first two counts, there are many more women on
live on the street as assumed. Therefore, the city now has a new aid system
established that is aimed exclusively at women.

We leave the Sparkasse and Freya,
the volunteer from the station mission says she would have liked more questions
than the five we got on the way. What do people lack in
your life special? Toilets? Take a shower? Internet? Freya says: "Sexual orientation too
is important. "Homosexual people, for example, often have it particularly
heavy. "I can't have a gay man in one
Housing men's accommodation is bullied. "

In a small park on one
The fourth homeless person, Bank, sits in the middle of our counting area
we meet today. We are still considering who should contact him, there he stands
up, waves and disappears. Freya knows him from the station mission, knows
that he's homeless. So we count him, but we can't interview him.

That is one of the big ones
Criticisms of the campaign: The count could scare the homeless.
To meet them unworthily. Some also fear that the data will be collected
to drive them out. In the evening there was even a little demo in front of the red one
City hall formed, the activists demanded apartments instead of numbers.
Social associations argue: we need both, one closes the other
yes not out.

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