How is a city like Frankfurt, where living space is scarce anyway, supposed to suddenly accommodate an additional 10,000 people?

So many fled to the Main metropolis before the war in Ukraine and want to stay here for the foreseeable future.

Thousands found shelter privately, but more than 7,000 don't know anyone in town.

Although the housing market seems to have been swept empty: they all got a roof over their heads.

Frankfurt also cares for 4,000 refugees from other countries, some of whom have been here for years.

The range of accommodation that the city makes available to those seeking protection is large, ranging from simple emergency accommodation, mostly sports halls, to temporarily rented simple hotel rooms to purpose-built blocks of flats.

Monica Ganster

Editor in the Rhein-Main-Zeitung.

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In the north of Frankfurt, the Diakonie has taken over two halls from the Red Cross in order to be able to accommodate 304 people who have fled the Ukraine there at short notice.

Cabins for families have been partitioned off with vertically hanging nets and tarpaulins, which shield prying eyes but not the voices and noises of the neighbours.

The halls are therefore empty during the day, only children play tag in the cabin aisles.

A security guard in uniform patrols the entrance hall.

The dining room is a separate part of the great hall, where benches and folding tables have been placed.

Everything has the simple charm of an older youth hostel.

But with a children's playroom, German lessons, sports facilities, multilingual social counseling, psychological group care, medical care and a prayer room with icons, the Diakonie tries to offer people more than just a place to live.

The warm spring weather allows for walks and a break on beer benches in the garden.

The adults seem to be looking inward.

They sit quietly in front of their smartphones when they speak, only quietly.

Some Somalis or Afghans, so-called third-country nationals, also live here

There are almost a dozen such halls throughout Frankfurt, which are operated by Caritas, Diakonie, the German Red Cross or the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) on behalf of the city.

During a tour of various facilities of this type, Karin Wenzel, deputy head of the accommodation management department, explains the four types of accommodation.

For all newcomers, a hall like that of the Diakonie is the first step on a stairway that gradually leads to better housing.

"Anything else would not be fair to those who have been there for years," says Wenzel.

At level two there are accommodations in which, for example, a cooking tent or double rooms are available.

Independent cooking, emphasizes Wenzel, is extremely important to those seeking protection, it is part of their identity, it keeps people busy, it connects them with their country of origin.

Therefore, accommodation in hotels is often difficult because people cannot cater for themselves.

After the dry pandemic years, hotel rooms are in greater demand from travelers again.

Then, in individual cases, the refugees are unloaded abruptly, sometimes within a few days.

Then the social welfare office has to rearrange, replan, reorganize.

Frankfurt has already taken in so many refugees that the city will not be assigned any more people via the state's official distribution key in the next few months, reports Elke Voitl (Die Grünen), Head of the Social Affairs Department.

"This is a breather that suits us very well."

A break in which to continue planning.

Nine new construction projects for temporary accommodation are in the planning stage, four existing accommodations are to be expanded, and six existing buildings and hotels could be converted, the head of department lists.

The ASB set up an apartment hotel for those seeking protection at the turn of the year.

Mainly Syrian and Afghan families are housed there.

The lockable housing units form level three of the urban division, similar to the mobile wood modules used at the former Bonames Airport.

AGB has built three blocks of flats in the south of the city, with simple but modern, bright two- and three-room apartments.

However, they only seem spacious until you learn that five people will be sharing three rooms.

Not all of them are occupied yet because the new building was only completed at the beginning of the year.

Anyone who can move in there has spent years in emergency shelters, has had to endure cramped conditions, a lack of privacy, noise and sometimes an uncertain legal residency status.

Therefore, many Syrian families as well as Eritreans, Romanians, Afghans, but also German and Spanish families live there in precarious circumstances.

On the lawn in front of the house, five girls from different backgrounds play happily with each other, they all speak fluent German and go to school in the area.

Voitl would like to see this type of apartment for many more people seeking protection in terms of good integration.

“Any good standard, self-contained housing built for refugees can be repurposed when we no longer need it,” she says.

This would give all Frankfurters more living space.

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