04. September 2012
Vienna’s homeless assistance scheme
Starting a new life with wohnbasis
In the framework of the project “housing basis” (wohnbasis), the City of Vienna provides assisted housing for homeless families. 80 families affected have benefited from this scheme since 2007. The aim is to enable them (with the assistance of social workers) to take over a flat based on a standard tenancy agreement.
wieder wohnenIn the framework of the “housing basis” project, previously homeless people are provided with a flat of their own. They are supported by social workers in the transition to independent living. The re-housing organisation wieder wohnen GmbH is a subsidiary of the Fund Social Vienna. It is the largest homeless services provider within Vienna’s homeless assistance scheme, offering different types of accommodation for homeless adults and families, two night shelters for women and a day centre for homeless people. For the “housing basis” project wieder wohnen has rented fifty flats in Vienna that are owned by the municipality. “The first flat was made available to a family in 2007. Since then we have enabled a total of eighty families to start a new life in their own flats”, manager of wieder wohnen Monika Wintersberger-Montorio was pleased to inform.
RequirementsThe flats offered by wohnbasis have a size of 45 and 55 square metres, consist of two rooms and come with basic furniture. They have been designed for adults living in a common household with children younger than 18 years. The persons affected should have the intention to take over the flat on the basis of an unlimited standard tenancy agreement. A monthly user fee, the electricity and gas expenses as well as a lump sum covering the district heating costs have to be paid regularly. Social workers check whether these monthly payments are made and assist the tenants in claiming and securing financial support. Moreover, they refer them to specialised services (e.g. advisory service for debtors or psychosocial care centres) and support them in dealing with authorities (e.g. by accompanying them to meetings). If the objective of formally handing over the flat to the tenant cannot be met within the transition period, other types of accommodation and housing have to be taken into consideration.
International attentionThe idea for Vienna’s “housing basis” (wohnbasis) came from the USA. Support under the American Housing First project is also based on providing homeless persons with their own housing and with domestic social assistance. This approach to tackling homelessness dates back to the early 1990s. It has developed into an alternative to the system of emergency shelters and transitional accommodation. The “housing basis” project of the City of Vienna has attracted attention at European level. In the two-year EU research project “Housing First Europe“, ten European cities – including Vienna, Budapest, Copenhagen, Lisbon and Dublin – share the experience gained in implementing the “housing first” approach. Vienna will take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about this approach to homelessness assistance and use these valuable insights in its daily practice.
Klara Kerestesz, Compress / Verena Brkic