Why can't the homeless get a job

Veronika walked through Berlin all day. It was a few degrees above zero, and when she got cold, she headed for a facility in Lichtenberg. To warm up. "And for lunch," she says. Veronika, 42, is happy when she can eat somewhere for free at lunchtime. Usually in one of the contact points for people who do not have a permanent place of residence. Now in the evening she comes to the emergency shelter on Frankfurter Allee in the east of the city. Today everything is a little different here than usual. Today there is application training for the homeless.

The huge honeycomb tent of the Berlin City Mission stands at the container station, right behind a shopping mall, where the lights of the billboards no longer shine. A few people are queuing in front of the entrance, holding bags and sacks, clouds of breath and cigarette smoke rise. It's just after eight, it's getting colder, and they're hoping for a place to sleep. And word got around among some that you can look for jobs here today.

No one knows exactly how many homeless people live in Berlin, as there is no registration requirement. The city mission, an institution of the Evangelical Church, assumes 6,000 people who live on the streets and around 40,000 homeless people, i.e. those who have no address, but stay with friends or do couch surfing, for example.

Veronika enters the hall. It's warm, she's wearing a thin green sweater and some gold jewelry. Anyone who wants to go to the accommodation must hand in their luggage and be scanned. There is bedding, a towel and, if necessary, shampoo. And if you want, you can take part in the application training today. There has never been anything like it here.

Veronika didn't know anything about the action, but is now sitting at a table, opposite her two employees from "Job Point Neukölln", a job placement agency for the whole city. Veronika has been looking for work since she came here from Latvia three months ago. So far she has worked as a kitchen helper. But there wasn't enough money. Now she has set out for Germany with her husband.

But looking for a job without knowledge of German is not easy. "No German? English?" Asks career counselor Denise Wegner. Veronika shakes her head: "a little". Wegner consults briefly with her colleague. "You can hardly do anything like this," he says. "An employer must be sure that his instructions are understood, otherwise he is taking a high risk." It goes back and forth a bit. Dmitrij, a volunteer, translates from Russian. "Call center maybe?" Veronika says: "You can clean too." Denise Wegner has an idea. "There is a cleaning company that also hires people without knowledge of German."

Justyna has been sitting at the next table for about half an hour and is getting advice from Sarah. Both type questions and answers into an online translator. Sarah wants to know whether she has an apprenticeship or professional experience. Justyna, it turns out, did an apprenticeship as a seamstress in her home country Poland and has nine years of professional experience as a cleaner. "Would you like to work as a tailor?" Sarah types into the translator. "No, no, no," replies Justyna and vigorously shakes her head. So now write her an application for a job as a cleaner.

"Some have forgotten what skills they have"

A little away from the action, Jana Grösche watches. The social worker of the city mission advises the homeless four times a week, for example on unemployment benefit II applications. She has achieved that today ten volunteers look after the guests at five stations. The volunteers not only help with the résumé, they also cut the guests' hair or do a little make-up for the application photos. And they also give them a little bit of hope. "Some have forgotten what skills they have," says Grösche. Many homeless people do not even find their way to the job center. Social welfare offices should actually send street workers out, she thinks, to see what it's like when you "live on the street in Berlin with overt psychosis". But "the system" demands that the seekers have to come themselves. "That's why the system comes to you now."

At first things were sluggish, then more and more guests dare to sit at the tables. David from Portugal, for example, would like to work as a waiter, Andrea from Brandenburg as an office clerk again - and tackle her alcohol problem. In the end, there are nine application profiles on the newly set up job page of the city mission, some guests have sent several applications by e-mail. The training was a success. It will be repeated soon.

At around 10 p.m. Veronika is sitting next to her husband on a bench. She looks tired and exhausted, looks into space. What does she want now? "A job. Preferably in Latvia. You know, our daughter is ten and goes to school there."