“Ha! That makes me happy,” says the old man, staring at a letter pinned to the notice board in the dilapidated groundfloor hallway. The letter, dated January 31, was from local district councilman Stephan von Dassel and it assured the 32 inhabitants of the “Moabit Guest House” that they would be able to stay – at least for now.
“We are firmly convinced that you can continue to live legally in the Berlichingenstrasse,” von Dassel wrote. “You moved in there legally and with the knowledge of the owner and you have always paid your living costs via the district authority punctually and in full.”
The old man reading the letter (with no small degree of schadenfreude) was not a tenant, but worked for the previous manager of the property, a home for the homeless in the Moabit district of Berlin that he had helped run for the past 20 years – until the end of last month. Some of its inhabitants have been there for many years, and some of them are sick with alcohol addiction, which is why the fact that they each have their own room is seen as important. “Of course you grow close to them, over the years,” the man said, still reading the councilman’s letter.