The city of Frankfurt has accommodated around 11,000 refugees and homeless people. In the medium and long term they need housing. But social housing is rare. The social department is trying to relax with so-called social housing projects.
Pants, T-shirts and towels hang over a partition wall for 82 cabins. Two boys are playing a game on their smartphones in front of the entrance to the converted tennis hall and the beeping and croaking of a monk parakeet can be heard from the hall, as reported by Monika Heil from Diakonie Frankfurt. She is the head of the emergency shelter in the north of Frankfurt, where around 300 refugees from Ukraine are currently living. Not only Ukrainians, but also people from Afghanistan, Somalia or Iran who had a residence status in the Eastern European country. The gymnasium was the first emergency shelter to be set up in Frankfurt just a few days after the outbreak of the Russian war of aggression.
“It was like déjà vu,” says Heil. You were reminded of the years 2015 and 2016, when thousands of people came to Frankfurt and several gyms were converted into emergency shelters. A caterer brings the food, next to the dining room there is the possibility to get vaccinated, a mourning room and a room where applications can be filled out. Information letters hang on the walls, and Diakonie employees walk around in blue vests, a sign that they speak Ukrainian or Russian. “We work in three shifts. There is always someone there,” says Heil.
After three months of war in the Ukraine, only a few refugees arrive at Frankfurt Central Station, and very few stay. The city of Frankfurt is now assuming around 10,000 refugees from Ukraine. 7200 Ukrainians receive electronic support from the youth and social welfare office. Before the outbreak of war in Ukraine there were around 4,500 refugees who were accommodated by the city in various temporary accommodations, there are now 7,300 people. “We need medium-sized and spacious apartments in Frankfurt for all of them to enable them to integrate well and lead a self-determined life,” says Elke Voitl (Greens), head of the social affairs department. There are also 3,700 homeless people being accommodated by the city.
With the tight real estate market in Frankfurt, the city councilor is aware that finding good accommodation for everyone is a mammoth task. Around 9,000 households are on the waiting list for social housing at the municipal housing association ABG. Finding an apartment is the number one topic in the Ukrainian community. On Monday, Voitl therefore invited people to a tour of the emergency shelter and a housing project to show the city’s efforts, but at the same time the difficulties.
Katrin Wenzel from the Accommodation Management and Refugees Office will be there. “We rely on the four-stage cascade model to bring people from the emergency shelters to regular accommodation,” explains the famous head of the department. The goal is for people to stay in emergency accommodation for a maximum of one year, which is usually successful. Care is taken to ensure that women with babies or small children and sick people do not come to emergency shelters.
In the second stage, people are to be accommodated in apartments, such as in Ludwig-Landmann-Strasse, which is looked after by the German Red Cross (DRK). “Not ideal”, as Wenzel admits, because there is no separate kitchen. but the rooms are lockable. In the third step, refugees are accommodated in wooden modular facilities, converted hotels and similar facilities. And in the fourth stage, it then led to social housing. Even before the Ukraine war, there weren’t any for more than 4,000 refugees.
“Only temporary accommodation is in the direct area of responsibility of the social department,” emphasizes Voitl. One of them is in the south of Frankfurt, where a group of little girls are happily romping around in the courtyard of a city block. Since January, the DRK has been running a social housing project here – “no social housing” (Voitl) – in cooperation with the ABG and the city of Frankfurt, where families and single parents with and without a refugee background live. “I think it’s nice that you can do projects here,” says one girl. Do you also have your own room? Voitl asks her. “No, unfortunately not.” She has to share that with her little brother. Nevertheless, for the girl and her family it is an important step to have their own apartment.
“It takes a load off a lot of people,” observed Lisa Rutsatz, who manages the housing project for the DRK. The housing situation affects many other areas. The social service of the DRK has an office in the residential complex and helps with orientation in the district and with all questions that arise in everyday life. 145 people will live in the 29 apartments of the DRK by the end of May. In the largest apartments, around 80 square meters, even a family of up to eight people. Such a large family would have no chance at all on the free housing market.
There are already four of these social housing projects in the city, and more are to follow. “Nine new construction projects for temporary accommodation are currently being planned,” reports Voitl. In addition, six existing buildings or hotels can be converted. Four existing accommodations are to be expanded. In addition, a total of 346 offers for completed apartments were received via [email protected] People have already been able to move into 100 of them, and contracts are about to be signed for 104. “These are all important steps in the right direction, but they are far from the whole way. That must be clear to all of us,” emphasizes Voitl.