More homeless people in Vienna, warns Landau

The number of people living on the streets of Vienna is on the rise, a humanitarian aid expert has announced.Caritas Vienna head Michael Landau said today (Mon) that he expected more homeless people than ever before to be seeking help this winter.Landau explained that around 2,600 homeless people got in touch with Caritas workers at the organisation’s institutions across the city in 2009, up from 2,200 in the previous year.The Caritas Vienna chief said he expected the number to be higher once more this year as 2,400 “new homeless people” were already registered between January and September of 2010.Landau stressed that a donation of 50 Euros is enough to finance a so-called winter package featuring a sleeping bag and a warm meal. He also pointed out that the risk of freezing to death was on the rise as temperatures have started to drop below the freezing point every night.A poll by researchers IFES and SORA revealed that around 10 per cent of Austrians – 350,000 people – claimed they were unable to make ends meet with what they earned. Only 256,000 people said the same when questioned 10 years ago, the agencies pointed out.Political leaders in the capital have been harshly criticised recently for their decision to charge homeless people to stay at city-funded lodgings.Social Democratic (SPÖ) councillor Sonja Wehsely announced in September that homeless people would have to cough up four Euros for every night they spend at the capital’s subsidised emergency shelters from this month.The councillor said the decision was part of the guaranteed minimum subsidy law which was recently agreed upon at federal level. Wehsely said only people applying for the new rule’s 774 Euros a month will have to pay for sleeping over at city-funded homes. She claimed the changes would improve people’s situation.Wehsely explained the city government’s main target was to help people find a permanent home as soon as possible. Greens councillor David Ellensohn said the announcement was “cynical”. Ellensohn announced: “This law will only make things worse for the poorest people of Vienna.”Referring to the late Social Democratic spearhead, he said: “So, this is supposed to be the famous socially conscious Vienna? Viktor Adler must be turning in his grave.”Chances that the regulation will be taken back again rose recently since the SPÖ Vienna decided to form a government coalition with the Greens in the new five-year term. Both parties suffered losses in the October city parliament elections.The Social Democrats were expected to approach the People’s Party (ÖVP) for coalition negotiations but eventually invited the Greens for talks. SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl said half-jokingly: “I prefer arguing about the one or other street (with the Greens) now and then than about the school system all the time (with the ÖVP).”