Have Indians ever drank alcohol

In this room, addicts and homeless people in Karlsruhe can drink alcohol

Alternative to Werderplatz

Alcohol is prohibited on Karlsruhe's Werderplatz in summer. Addicts, job seekers and the homeless can instead drink in the “alcohol-accepting lounge” around the corner. Many find the offer so good that they don't want to go back to the old scene even in winter.

The new Werderplatz has corner benches with flower cushions and a gray linoleum floor. Peter, Atze and Siggi are sitting around a table, in front of them three bottles of Rössel Export, a can of Turmbräu, a Spezi. They used to sit outside at the Indian fountain every now and then, with the Rössel Export and the Turmbräu and maybe also with the Spezi. Now the three of them sit in a warm room and watch the smoke waft through the room. “For me this is family,” says Atze, who doesn't say much else.

The old Werderplatz is full of leaves, otherwise it is empty. The restaurateurs have long since packed up their parasols. There is only one man standing by the Indian fountain, an energy drink in hand. He should also drink alcohol again, because the summer ban on consumption on the square ended on November 1st.

Some of the Werderplatz scene has migrated

But nothing can be seen of the crowds and piles of broken glass from earlier times on this autumn day. The situation is better than it has been for decades, says the head of the Karlsruhe regulatory office. And cites as the reason not only the temporary alcohol ban, but also the A³, where Peter, Atze and Siggi are now sitting.

The “alcohol-accepting lounge”, as the full name is, should be a healthy alternative to Werderplatz. Here people can sit together in the warm and slightly intoxicated, wash their clothes, eat something. Schützenstrasse shines in shadowy through the slug of the former restaurant. If you walk past the pale pink house with the columns on the balconies, you will mistake the building for a hotel. That was it, too, today the rooms are rented out permanently.

Drugs are strictly forbidden

For example to Horst. He lives at Schützenstrasse 2, which means: He lives in the A3 and sleeps one floor higher. Horst doesn't drink alcohol, but instead has his coffee in the lounge every day. “When it's closed here, on Saturdays and Sundays, that's really missing,” says the widower. At the beginning of the month he throws twenty euros into the donation box, simply for the fact that he can sit alone in front of the checkered tablecloth in the non-smoking room and have his peace and quiet. "I've had enough hectic pace in my life."

An employee brings a new cup of coffee and a hole has been drilled in the spoon. Drugs are taboo in the A³, as is high-proof alcohol. But that doesn't bother Peter, who has just unpacked two bottles of whiskey in the smoking room. He just wanted to show it, he explains, he got it very cheaply. At the warning words of an employee, he quickly packs the bottles away again, he does not want to risk being banned from the house.

Anyone who breaks the rules risks being banned from the house

"We sometimes have slips that make people verbally aggressive," says Anita Beneta. She is head of social work at the Diakonisches Werk Karlsruhe, which operates the room. Every now and then the police have to come. On the whole, however, Beneta and her team are surprised at how well the room and its rules are accepted by clients.

At the bar, Sofia Moylan keeps an exact tally sheet. Ten women and more than twenty men were already there that Monday. “So that we know how much money we need,” says the 21-year-old, looking at the slip of paper. Moylan is completing a voluntary social year in the street social work of the Diakonie, which is financed by the city of Karlsruhe. If there were no more visitors to the A³, the costs of around 150,000 euros a year could not be justified.

But in the first year more than 6,000 people came, a third of them women. That is proportionally more women than the street workers reach out on the street. A friend would come by later, says Peter.

If someone wants to get away from alcohol we will do everything we can to help them.
Anita Beneta (Diakonia)

If he wanted, he could stop drinking, says the 62-year-old. But he doesn't want to. One principle is important to social worker Anita Beneta: The client determines the goal of the offer. "If someone wants to get away from alcohol, we will do everything we can to help them." And whoever wants to drink is allowed to drink. Three people have dried up since it opened a little over a year ago.

However, many visitors also have problems other than alcohol: some clients are in drug replacement therapy. If you want to go to the toilet in the basement of the A³, you have to inform the counter beforehand so that the light is switched on. Otherwise, only bluish black light shines there, which makes it impossible for addicts to recognize their own veins and to take a shot.

Hardly any client in the lounge is healthy

The washing machine in the basement is ready, its beeping comes through the stairs into the dining room. There it is drowned out by a man with a beret singing a French chanson. Peter next to him still looks like a biker in his leather jacket and headscarf, although the rag has been gone for two years. “A bit of hash,” he says and shrugs his shoulders. He's also unemployed now, and he also has herpes zoster. He pulls up his shirt and shows the red spots. "But no longer contagious, otherwise I wouldn't be here."

We're not giving up the spoon that quickly.

Almost everyone in the group has survived or is still struggling with illnesses: One has diabetes, the next colon cancer, the third one operation after the other. “But we're not giving up the spoon that quickly,” says Klaus. Atze wipes ash from the table into a mug with his hand.

The fact that you have been allowed to drink alcohol again at Werderplatz for a few days has already made the rounds in the A³. But the visitors are not particularly impressed: It's more comfortable and cleaner in here, and most of them don't even want to go back. The man in the beret hands out salty snacks, “Imagine” is on the radio. "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one," he agrees.

After breaking into his room, Atze prefers to sleep on the street

Atze keep closing his eyes. The 55-year-old actually lives in a small room on Rheinstrasse in Mühlburg, but at the moment he prefers to sleep on the street. His apartment door was kicked in and the oven stolen, explains Peter. Since the opening of the A³ Atze has been absent for two or three days, otherwise he has been there every day. “I think it's great that there are people who take care of you,” murmurs Atze, fumbling the individual parts of a small motorcycle figure with shaky hands.

If you believe the 63-year-old Hogge, not everyone thinks the municipal measures against alcohol abuse on Werderplatz are so great. "The ban is sucks, it's all about business people," says Hogge, whose real name is Klaus. But there are now quite a few of them in Karlsruhe, which is why the native of Hockenheim can be named after his origins.

Drug addicts gather in the southern part of Karlsruhe

He lived on the streets for ten years, he says, and used to keep things tidy on Werderplatz. “I know them all,” says Hogge and explains that most of the members of the old Werderplatz scene have long since died. "When it was dirty there, we swept everything away." But since more and more drug addicts had come to Südstadt to see one of the few substitution doctors there, the situation has escalated.

Like Horst, Hogge lives directly above the A³. He was lucky and got one of the former double rooms of the former hotel. “My bed is four square meters, that fits in and a built-in wardrobe too.” Hogge has been in a wheelchair for two years, only has one leg but two hotplates on which he cooks for the residents on Sundays. “When I make sauerbraten, they all go crazy,” he says.

Even in the A³ there is something warm to eat several times a week. The 21-year-old Sofia Moylan likes her voluntary service in the alcohol consumption room: “You hear a different story every day.” The young woman accompanies clients to the office, reads letters from authorities with them and talks about personal fates.

Is the scene different from the rest of society?

Before her FSJ, she had never come into contact with people from this milieu, says Moylan. Doesn't the A³ also serve to separate the alcoholic scene from the rest of society? No, says division manager Anita Beneta and explains that an open house was celebrated with many interested guests to mark the company's one year anniversary.

On all other days, however, it is important to the employees that the residents of the A³ do not notice as much as possible. If the room closes at 4 p.m., guests shouldn't be loitering in front of the house. Peter has to leave earlier today anyway: It's shortly before three when he sighs and checks his cell phone. “I have to see a doctor in Durlach in half an hour,” he says, reaching for a bottle. A beer is still possible until then.

City of Karlsruhe draws a positive balance of the alcohol ban on Werderplatz Between April 1st and November 1st of this year it was forbidden to drink alcohol at Werderplatz. The head of the Karlsruhe regulatory office, Björn Weisse, draws a positive conclusion: the population, the citizens' association and tradespeople have given feedback "that the situation is better than it has been for decades." The opening of the alcohol consumption room in September 2018 was a great success - The situation at Werderplatz has not improved as a result. "Now the interaction works great," says Weisse about the combination of the ban with an alternative offer in the A³. Not all people who used to be on Werderplatz would accept the alcohol consumption room. “They have now been displaced and are spread out across the city.” In the past there have been complaints from the Festplatz at Vierordtbad, where a new scene had formed. “These smaller groups are more socially acceptable,” says the head of the public order department, Weiße. "Of course, nobody is happy with a scene like this on their doorstep, but the numbers are not at all worrying."

The situation on Werderplatz has worsened because six or seven years ago new groups were added to the established scene that had no personal connection to the square, said Weisse. “In particular, Russian- and Romanian-speaking people who live as seasonal workers in cramped conditions.” During the alcohol ban, the municipal security service carried out 363 checks on Werderplatz, issued 28 evictions and issued 68 warnings for administrative offenses. Now, after the end of the ban, his employees are still present on site, says Weisse. He does not fear a relocation of riots back to Werderplatz.