Shut down by corona, Berlin restaurant opens for homeless


It was a clear win-win proposition, said Hofbraeu manager Bjoern Schwarz. As well as helping out the homeless during tough times the city-funded project also gives needed work to employees — and provides the restaurant with welcome income.

In cooperation with the city and two welfare organizations, the restaurant quickly developed a concept to take in up to 150 homeless people in two shifts every day until the end of the winter, and started serving meals on Tuesday.

It’s only a small number compared with the 3,000 restaurant guests, primarily tourists, who would pack the establishment during good times. But the spacious halls have proved perfectly suited to bring in the homeless and give them each plenty of space to avoid infections.

“Normally, during Christmas time, we would have many groups here for Christmas parties and then we’d serve pork knuckles, half a duck or goose … but not at the moment,” said Schwarz. “We’re still doing delivery, but obviously that’s only a drop in the bucket.”

In addition to serving food and non-alcoholic drinks and offering the warmth of indoors, the restaurant provides its bathrooms for the homeless to wash up, and the GEBEWO and Berlin Kaeltehilfe relief groups have workers on hand to provide counseling and new clothes, if needed.

For its new clientele, the restaurant opened a second-floor, wooden-decorated hall, and put up 40 long tables.

“We’ll offer them something different from the regular soup kitchen food — real dishes on porcelain plates, with different sides, we’ll try to offer Christmas-style dishes with lot of flavors,” Schwarz said.

Breidaks came to Germany three months ago looking for work. But he says a promised meat factory job never materialized and he ended up on the streets of Berlin begging for the money needed to replace a stolen passport and buy a bus ticket back home.

He’s one of an estimated 2,000 to 12,000 people who remain homeless in this city of 3.6 million, even after another 34,000 were put up in community shelters, hostels and apartments by social services and private welfare groups.

“The corona pandemic has seriously worsened the situation for homeless people, they live in very precarious conditions,” said Elke Breitenbach, the Berlin state government’s senator for social issues, whose department supports the restaurant-turned-shelter financially.

“They don’t have enough to eat and when it’s cold they must have places to warm up,” Breitenbach added.

On Thursday, the first shivering group that entered the Hofbraeu along with Breidaks were served either Thuringia-style bratwurst with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and onion sauce, or a vegetarian stew with potatoes, zucchini, bell pepper and carrots. For dessert there was apple strudel with vanilla sauce.

For Breidaks, that was more than he had expected after spending a night with sub-zero temperatures huddled up next to the walls of a big department store on Alexanderplatz.

“All I need is hot soup,” he said. “And, God willing, I will go back home in January.”

Homeless man Kaspars Breidaks from Latvia sits in guest room of Berlin's biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Homeless man Kaspars Breidaks from Latvia sits in guest room of Berlin’s biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Hofbraeu manager Bjoern Schwarz poses for a photo at Berlin's biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Hofbraeu manager Bjoern Schwarz poses for a photo at Berlin’s biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Homeless man Kaspars Breidaks from Latvia poses for a portrait during an interview with the Associated Press in guest room of Berlin's biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Homeless man Kaspars Breidaks from Latvia poses for a portrait during an interview with the Associated Press in guest room of Berlin’s biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

The entrance sign of Hofbraeu Berlin is seen in front of Berlin's biggest restaurant, with the television tower in the background in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The entrance sign of Hofbraeu Berlin is seen in front of Berlin’s biggest restaurant, with the television tower in the background in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Homeless man Kaspars Breidaks from Latvia poses for a portrait during an interview with the Associated Press in guest room of Berlin's biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Homeless man Kaspars Breidaks from Latvia poses for a portrait during an interview with the Associated Press in guest room of Berlin’s biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Cook Sascha Richter puts up photos of the menu at the food distribution station for the homeless people at Berlin's biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Cook Sascha Richter puts up photos of the menu at the food distribution station for the homeless people at Berlin’s biggest restaurant Hofbraeu Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The restaurant which had to closed due to the corona pandemic has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber





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