A lobby for fringe groups
bodo, a Dortmund-based association, supports people in difficult circumstances
For some people, the downward spiral seems to spin very fast. Sometimes, it happens within just three months: a separation or divorce, unemployment, depression, unpaid invoices. The final stage: homelessness.
Bastian Pütter, working for bodo, an association focused on the support and reintegration of people in difficult circumstances, knows all about this spiral: “We talk to these people on eye level, and concentrate on a common goal – to generate self-confidence.“
Together with six other permanently employed colleagues, Pütter, who is the editor of the street magazine „bodo“ and responsible for the PR of the association, is a contact for all people finding themselves in problematic circumstances, whether they live on the streets or are looking for social connections. Apart from a bookshop, bodo also offers a moving service and the street magazine „bodo“. ”We cannot save everybody“, says Bastian Pütter, ”but we feel what does people good. Sometimes, we can stabilise them, take them to a level in which they are able to deal with their problems.“
According to the state office of statistics and the state office of information and technology of North Rhine-Westphalia (IT.NRW), the number of homeless people is decreasing.
1975, IT.NRW counted 19.624 homeless people in NRW – 2009, it were "just" 7.360. However, IT.NRW does only count those persons who are housed by the local authorities – the ones who are vagrant are unaccounted for.
Like the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe (a federal working group focused on help for the homeless), Bastian Pütter demands a common federal home emergency report policy based on legal prerequisites: “In Dortmund, we can only estimate the number of homeless people – we assume that it amounts to about several hundred. Nobody knows the exact figures. We really need statistics regarding homelessness to end this uncertainty.“
Bastian Pütter who holds a degree in history, has been working for bodo since 2009, but supported the weakest members of our society even before that with his work as a PR staffer in Dortmund’s child-care centre. Today, the 36-year old is responsible for the PR and the editorial work of the “bodo“ magazine. The association’s magazine has a monthly circulation of 12.000 copies and is distributed by more than 100 ”bodo”-vendors in Bochum, Dortmund, and the surrounding areas. The association and the magazine are independent: “We get along well with the local social welfare office and the regulatory agencies, but we want to maintain our independence. That is important to us.“
“bodo” - a lobby for fringe groups
Each month, the editorial staff offers a variety of themes in the magazine, not only concentrating on issues of life on the streets, but a mixture of local topics reflected in portraits, reports, essays, interviews, comments: culture, migration, society, and similar fields. The vendors can keep 50% of the copy price (1,80 Euro). Bastian Pütter considers the magazine to be mainly a lobby instrument for the fringe groups of our society: ”Although the sale is a job, it doesn’t offer a livelihood. Anyway, the purpose of this vendor job is to stabilise people, to give their lives a structure, and to meet other people who are not part of their scene. After all, homelessness has to do something with leaving – when selling ”bodo”, they are confronted with regularity, they have to stay. Street magazines are the right instruments for that.“
Solidarity in a team
A “bodo“ vendor has to agree to certain rules: alcohol, drugs, and violence are not allowed before and during the selling period. In addition to that, the vendors express their solidarity with all vendors in the team, enhanced by a common team wear. Just like in regular companies, the corporate identity is transported via common work wear and intensifies the identification of “bodo“ vendors with their product: they wear their red ”bodo” jackets and t-shirts, caps and badges with self-confidence.
Bastian Pütter: ”The effect is a personal change – it works better than me telling them to wear something more respectable when selling the magazine. All in all, the vendors also get some reassurance: sometimes, they come to us without any social contacts, without self-confidence, and suddenly, they notice that there are people who miss them when they are not at their usual selling location.”
Since March 2012, bodo is located in new, bigger offices right in the centre of Dortmund, and the team, based in Dortmund’s harbour region since 2000 before the move, notices a stronger resonance. Today, 30 people are on bodo’s payroll, mostly mini-jobbers, but there are also two apprentices in the bookshop, getting qualified for the job market. Sometimes, former street kids finish school due to their involvement with bodo. Bastian Pütter: “It’s great to see how these people develop. And it’s great that we have become more visible in the city. People should know that we are here – and they should know that there is such a thing like homelessness.”