“No one decides from one day to the next, ‘I’m just going to be homeless and get on everyone else’s nerves,’” said City Councilor for Social Affairs Peter Hacker (SPÖ) at the opening of Nord_light in Vienna’s 22nd district this week.
Nord_light, operated by the welfare organization Volkshilfe, is the city’s first daytime homeless shelter north of the Danube and offers space for up to 70 people. Situated at Dr.-Otto-Neurath-Gasse 1, it has four quiet rooms with 16 beds, of which one is reserved for women. Visitors will be provided with “simple meals and drinks,” as well “bed sheets, towels and hygiene articles,” public broadcaster ORF reported on its website. “Moreover, guests can shower, wash laundry and secure their valuables and documents.” The site is open to anyone over age 18, including their pets.
Nord_light is the eighth daytime shelter to open in Vienna, bringing the total number of available daytime spaces up to 600, FSW told Metropole. In the winter, partner organizations (including churches and others) offer additional daytime Wärmestube (warm parlors) where people are served soup and can stay in from the cold.
Homelessness is an often overlooked aspect of city life, and one that other cities often leave to private charities. Welfare organizations (church-run and secular) also do tremendous work in Vienna, but here the Fonds Soziales Wien (FSW, Social Fund of Vienna) helps to “plan, guide and organize” that work, which covers everything from protection to re-housing, among the 30 partner organizations.
In the nighttime, some 6,700 living and sleeping spaces are available, FSW representative Jakob Reisinger told Metropole in an email. These range from emergency night quarters to dorm-style residences, to “supervised apartments, where people are supported on their way to finding their own four walls to live in.” The fact that Vienna has sufficient beds to meet demand in the winter is especially important. “In Vienna, there is no room to be socially ‘cold’. Especially in winter, no one should have to sleep outdoors and endanger their health.”
In Vienna there were nearly 12,000 homeless people in 2018, according to FSW statistics, though they note that there are almost certainly more out there who are “invisible” – FSW numbers reflect only those people who make use of at least one of their various programs.