Inter-European Division

Adventists Celebrate a Local Haven for Homeless Women in Germany

In Germany, the Advent Welfare Organization operates daycare centers, a special education daycare center, a facility for addiction counseling and treatment, and an overnight shelter for homeless women.

APD, EudNews, with ANN Staff
Adventists Celebrate a Local Haven for Homeless Women in Germany

[Photo: AWW]

On the 30th anniversary of the overnight accommodation for homeless women in Leipzig, Germany, which is run by the Advent Welfare Organization (AWW), Sylvia Bräunlich, who has been there from the beginning, gives a personal review. Her report appeared in the June 2024 issue of the magazine Adventisten Heute.

Before 1994, according to Bräunlich, the overnight accommodation was provisionally run by the city's social welfare office before it was given over to the independent management of the AWW in 1994. In 1992, an AWW helper group was set up in Leipzig. This later gave rise to the clothing store for the needy. Setting up an overnight accommodation as an emergency shelter exclusively for women in Leipzig was considered. During this time, the city of Leipzig put the overnight accommodation out to tender for takeover by independent management. The AWW was awarded the contract, among several competitors.

"We started with five employees in May 1994. Today, we have ten employees. In the first few nights, we actually only accommodated four women. Word of the offer gradually got around in Leipzig," Bräunlich remembers. "We 'newbies' had the opportunity to slowly get used to the new tasks and to gain experience in dealing with the various problems and obstacles that the women brought with them," she states.

Major Challenges

Bräunlich has met countless women in the 30 years of her service. Some only stayed briefly, perhaps just one night, and most, longer. The women talked about their difficult childhoods or relationships, about abuse they had dealt with, experiences of violence, about being in prison, in a psychiatric hospital, about alcohol and/or drug abuse. Some women lived on the streets for a long time or with casual acquaintances. In any case, they no longer had their own home. Contact with family and friends often broke off. But they also spoke of their own children, who were often taken into care by the youth welfare office or even adopted. Many a tear was shed during the conversations.

Other women were so mentally ill and/or addicted that they refused any treatment "and we, as professional helpers, could only prevent the worst," states Bräunlich. Not every woman accepted the support offers. There were also women who entered the house angry because, for example, they were evicted from their apartment on the same day or an acquaintance threw them out. "Afterwards, they stood at our gate without any belongings," she recalls. Sometimes, women only came to the overnight accommodation after days and nights on the street and asked for a place to sleep. They were often ashamed of their situation.

Not every woman found herself in such a predicament innocently. "Nevertheless, we try to talk to them impartially," she shares. Crisis intervention, basic care, applications, and receiving standard benefits would be the first measures.

The Positive Outweighs the Negative

Bräunliche has experienced a lot of negative things in her long service. "There were women who 'freaked out' because of their serious mental and/or addiction disorders, both verbally and physically. There were women who screamed out their anger uncontrollably, refused to de-escalate, threw objects around, and threatened us. Those were the extraordinarily challenging days. Sometimes, we needed the help of the police to prevent things from getting worse."

And yet, she adds: "The positive outweighs the negative - to this day. Women who managed to make a new start in the long term, the pleasant teamwork, the relaxed interaction with one another, the laughter, the collegial exchange, the relieving conversations, the professionalism, not knowing what the day would bring - that's what makes the work complete." And she adds that her faith in God carries her through her work, day after day.

More About the Advent Welfare Organization

The AWW was founded in Hamburg in 1897 as a social welfare organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In Germany, it operates daycare centers, a special education daycare center, a facility for addiction counseling and treatment, and an overnight shelter for homeless women. In addition, the AWW is the main shareholder of several non-profit organizations, including senior citizens' homes, hospices, a residential facility for people with disabilities, and a school. The AWW also supports numerous volunteer-run projects for refugee and integration assistance. Self-help groups for people suffering from addiction are also run by the Adventist social welfare organization.

The original article was published on the Inter-European Division website.

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