Shortage of space: Women’s shelters in Bonn and Cologne have been overstretched for years

Shortage of space : Women’s shelters in Bonn and Cologne have been overstretched for years

By 2022, 50 new places are to be created in women's shelters in North Rhine-Westphalia. According to the Istanbul Convention, it should be 1,200 places. Here is a look at what facilities are available in the region.

“The most dangerous place for women is still their own home," says Eva Risse. She has been working in the independent women's shelter "Frauen helfen Frauen" (“Women helping Women”) in Bonn since 1985. There are a total of 22 spaces in this house - 13 for women and nine for children. In the women's shelter "Hilfe für Frauen in Not" (“Help for Women in Need”) there are another 20 places available.

The need has been much higher than the spots available for many years now. "In 2017, we had to turn down 413 women in our house alone," says Risse. In the whole of North Rhine-Westphalia in 2016, it was 5,888 women who had to be sent away. According to the Istanbul Convention, which Germany signed in 2017, the City of Bonn alone would be required to have 85 places - around twice as many as what it has now. The international treaty creates binding legal norms against violence against women and domestic violence.

"We are already talking about 2022, but we need the spaces now. Many women simply don't have time to wait for help," she emphasizes. The occupancy rate at the Bonn shelter Frauen helfen Frauen (Women helping Women) has been between 95 and 100 percent for ten years. "But in order for us to really be able to function as a refuge, it should be a maximum of 75 percent," said Risse.

Many women are placed in shelters more than 100 kilometers away. "This is often not possible. Either because of their work situation or because of the children's day-care and school. Besides that, it is precisely in such situations that you need your social environment," says Eva Risse. Especially the waiting period is a very dangerous time for the women. Claudia Schrimpf from "Frauen helfen Frauen" in Cologne also sees this. "When the women come to us, they have unfortunately had to endure violence for a very long time. Many come to us with an acute fear of death".

And even in Cologne the situation is not any better than in Bonn. On the contrary. The two independent women's shelters have room for a total of 20 women and 27 children. "In 2017 alone we had to find other places for 700 women," says Schrimpf.

However, the signal from the German government gives them hope: "In the past, we had to talk to the federal, state and local governments about adequate financing. One always referred us to the other," says Claudia Schrimpf. Her wish would be for complete federal funding. Currently, women in Bonn and Cologne have to pay a daily rate. At "Frauen helfen Frauen" in Bonn it is seven euros. In the Cologne shelters the daily rate is determined on the basis of income and can go up to 78 euros.

By 2022, 50 new places are to be created in NRW. According to the Istanbul Convention, there is currently a shortage of 1,200 places.

Further information and help can be found at www.frauen-info-netz.de.

(Orig. text: Elena Sebening, Translation: Carol Kloeppel)