WGs for refugees: “It’s time for a new welcome culture”

In Germany live about 188,000 refugees (as of 2013), who had to leave their countries of origin. Unfortunately, many of these people often encounter hate and exclusion here. The organization ‘Refugees Welcome’ tries to tackle this problem and places refugees in private homes. The aim is to usher in a new welcome culture in Germany.

War, political persecution, violation of human rights and poverty are some of the key reasons why people from many regions of the world have to flee . Unfortunately, these people rarely expect open arms in most countries of arrival. Frequently, refugees are housed in mass housing, where they find little contact with locals. The ‘Refugees Welcome’ organization has set itself the task of providing refugees with private WGs . There they can find peace, friends and maybe even a new home, beyond the stigma and exclusion of mass housing. For the financing of private accommodation , the project has developed an effective concept . finanzen.de talked about this in an interview with one of the three initiators, Mareike Geiling.

Refugees in shared apartments: Simple concept with a big impact

The concept of ‘Refugees Welcome’ is quite simple: Refugees are given to shared flats or other living arrangements . The interest in taking in refugees is great, according to Geiling. So far, however, many WGs have encountered bureaucratic hurdles and walls . Often the question of financing the rent is unclear . In addition, many WGs did not know where to go with their plan to take in a refugee.

“The project came into existence when we realized that there was a ‘market gap’ . Now we successfully mediate and help with the financing . That has been enough to trigger a kind of initial spark on many people. Anyone who has a willingness to accept a refugee has been given an opportunity by our organization to actually take this step.”

Who takes over the financing?

Geiling says that ‘Refugees Welcome’ conveys refugees with different residence status and also for different lengths of stay. Especially illegalized refugees and people who can only find shelter in shared apartments for a few months need funding beyond official positions such as the job center or the social services office for this time. For these cases, Geiling and her colleagues in the circle of friends and acquaintances of refugees and ask themselves for so-called micro-donations . There are currently 367 registered micro-donors at Refugees Welcome. Rents in the amount of 150 to 200 euros can be subsidized from this donor pool. However, the money does not flow directly through the organization. The WGs are brokered directly to the donors . Recognized refugees are in any case entitled to certain social benefits and can therefore pay their own rent .

Numbers: The rent is paid through different channels

Almost half of the shared flats and other forms of housing offer rent-free living space. Almost a quarter is funded by micro donations. About a quarter of the refugees receive a reimbursement from the responsible social welfare offices. In addition, there are some self-payers.

Insurance and food: Who will pay more?

Many shared flats, families and other forms of living are willing to take in a refugee with him in the apartment, so Geiling. But there are often fears on the part of the WG residents, who turn to the responsibility for the refugee . Geiling says that she knows of no case in which a refugee was not included, because this had no liability insurance. Nevertheless, she knows from personal experience how many people shy away from accepting a refugee in their own flat at the last moment . However, unlike all fears, it has never experienced that receiving a refugee would incur additional costs .

Reduce fears and make friends

The idea of ​​creating a new welcoming culture in Germany is already bearing fruit. So 51 agencies have already succeeded in Germany – about three quarters of them in Berlin. Despite the very good experiences that Geiling and her colleagues have already collected, many shared flats and other forms of living are still reluctant to take the decision. The formation of so-called local groups for refugees, WG residents, families and interested people should help to make contacts, ask questions and reduce prejudices and fears . Anyone who would like to take in a refugee is also looked after by the organization and the mediation is prepared in detail .

What mechanisms are there to protect asylum seekers from abuse?

Many refugees are in a dependency relationship – money, housing and language play a major role here. For this reason, the staff of ‘refugees welcome’ are in close contact with the landlords and the mediated refugees . “As for dwellers, we realize that the people who sometimes spend weeks preparing and communicating are ultimately fit for purpose . We also have extensive contact with the refugees before, or with local organizations (Caritas, Diakonie, private refugee initiatives that people know personally). “

“On suspicion that a housing provider could exploit the very vulnerable situation of refugees , we have already broken off negotiations. That has happened since our founding in 2014, but only twice . Much more often, there are families who make special requests to the potential new roommate. For example, there are always inquiries from vegan families who are only willing to accept someone who also wants to live vegan.”