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‘Pfuusbus’ emergency homeless shelter sees record demand 

A large bright pink tent with wooden floors filled with metal bunk beds and blue plastic mattresses.
The Pfuusbus emergency sleeping centre, an initiative by Pfarrer Sieber, is open to people aged 20 and over who have no place to sleep. KEYSTONE

The ‘Pfuusbus’, an emergency shelter for homeless people, was busier last year than ever before.

The Pfarrer Sieber charity has said this is likely due to a change in drug use, an overburdened psychiatric system, and the housing shortage.  

The Pfuusbus emergency sleeping centre, an initiative by Pfarrer Sieber, is open to people aged 20 and over who have no place to sleep. Night patrollers seek out people on the street and show them the way to the Pfuusbus, which offers support with their living situation, pastoral issues, and social enquiries.  

From mid-November 2023 to mid-April 2024, Pfarrer Sieber registered a total of 6,495 overnight stays by 277 different people in its Pfuusbus. In the previous winter, there were 4,965 overnight stays by 251 people.  

At the Iglu, an emergency sleeping centre for homeless migrant workers, demand was on a par with the previous winter’s 3,902, with 3,919 overnight stays, the social welfare organisation announced on Tuesday.  

The organisation pointed to a change in drug use as a possible reason for the significant increase in overnight stays in the Pfuusbus, despite a mild winter.  

According to the press release, doctors at the Sune-Egge specialist hospital have noticed that patients who used to inject cocaine are now increasingly smoking the substance as crack cocaine, which it said leads to a stronger dependency and accelerates social disintegration.  

The Pfuusbus also saw an increase in mentally ill people seeking refuge in the winter of 2023/24, according to Pfarrer Sieber, possibly due to overwhelmed psychiatric services following the coronavirus pandemic. Patients without a strong social network, who find it difficult to keep appointments and do not take their medication regularly, could fall out of the system.  

Increased demand for emergency accommodation could also have something to do with the tight housing market: “In any case, we have noticed that some guests were doing paid work during the day,” the press release said. “They had lost their precarious housing situation and were referred to the Pfuusbus by sometimes overburdened residential communities.” 

Translated from German by DeepL/kp 

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