How did querstadtein come about?
It all started with the desire of our two founders to get something ‘real’ off the ground in Berlin, to actively tackle an issue instead of just thinking about it. Homeless people seemed to be everywhere, throughout the city and on the daily commute to the office. Some of them were there day in, day out, in the U-Bahn or on the street. The divide between the homeless people and the rest of society was striking. This is where we wanted to be active – to create a space which would facilitate encounters, exchange and awareness.
Katharina Kühn & Sally Ollech, the founders of querstadtein
Our starting point
In cities like Hamburg, London and Copenhagen there are already city tours given by (formerly) homeless people. We couldn’t find anything like this in Berlin, although it has the largest homeless population in Germany.
Through contact with social service providers, it became clear that there was really nothing like this happening in Berlin. The response to our idea was very positive and we began taking steps to make it a reality. In applying for startsocial in July 2012 (a business plan competition for social projects), we put our ideas down on paper and made initial plans. The project developed slowly but surely, running alongside our full-time jobs.
First steps …
After a lengthy search for the right name, ‘querstadtein – homeless people show their Berlin’ was born. We established cooperative partnerships with social service providers such as the GEBEWO, the Stadtmission, and strassenfeger. Excitement about the project grew, so that by the start of 2013 we had a full team of volunteers – enriching the project a huge boost and making us feel that this was really going to happen.
The project team of querstadtein
In February 2013 the first version of the website went online – querstadtein made its first steps into the world of web 2.0. Lots of positive feedback convinced us that this was something Berlin had been lacking for a long time!
At the end of 2013 we formed the registered non-profit association Stadtsichten, with thirteen founding members. querstadtein is our first project. At the same time we met our first tour guide, Carsten Voss, through the Seeling shelter of the GEBEWO. Together in April and May we developed the first querstadtein tour, in Schöneberg.
… first tours!
On the 4th of June 2013, the first tour took place. The results exceeded all our expectations. Media coverage was exceptional and all our tours were booked out. In June 2013 through Caritas we met our second tour guide, Uwe Tobias, who wanted to show his side of Berlin-Mitte. After it was fully developed together with Uwe, the second querstadtein tour kicked off on October 5th 2013 – and again the reaction was enormous. In the first year we held more than 160 tours with over 3,000 total participants! Dieter has been part of querstadtein since Ocotber 2014; since then he takes participants with him through the City West.
Uwe Tobias & Carsten Voss, tour guides at querstadtein
We were incredibly glad of our rapid growth but also realised that it would be impossible to maintain and develop only on a volunteer basis. Thanks to funding from the Auerbach Foundation, we were able to establish a full-time Project Manager position, taken up by Sandra Rasch in March 2014.
Sandra Rasch, project manager at querstadtein
How are we going to move forward?
querstadtein continues to push ahead with regular meetings, workshops and dialogue with (formerly) homeless people and project partners. We benefit greatly from the varied backgrounds and networks of our members. We are continually seeking and coaching new guides. A variety of tours will be developed for a broader target audience and we have many more ideas for other formats to encourage dialogue on the issues surrounding homelessness, and promote exchanges and awareness.