Warming Up the Homeless in Vienna, Austria
From December through the end of March the English-Speaking United Methodist Church (ESUMC) and its sister congregation the Fünfhaus United Methodist Church offer people who are homeless a place to stay warm during the day and enjoy soup and warm drinks in our church building church in Vienna’s Fifteenth district.
The winter day shelter (or “Wärmestube” in German) mission is coordinated by Caritas Wien. Twenty-two congregations in Vienna are participating, opening their doors throughout the week. Those without homes – and those who might actually have an apartment but not enough funds to heat it – can visit to warm up, enjoy tasty food, and talk until evening. It is a sanctuary where all are welcome and none are bothered – old and young, men and women, regardless of their backgrounds, nationalities, language, or city where they reside.
The concept and the name have been taken from the calefactorium, the one heated room in a monastery where the monks could go to warm up during the winter. Like those monks, some people today, even in an affluent city like Vienna, need warmth.
The volunteers who staff the ESUMC Fellowship Area receive orientation training. A sign is hung on the door to the church “Wärmestube – please ring”. The volunteers provide soup, coffee, fruit, and other food. Last year one volunteer provided goulash and risotto and oriental pasta dishes. Between 80 and 100 people came each day.
People can freeze not only from the temperature but from loneliness. The volunteers are not trained social workers or psychologists, but they try to approach each visitor with respect and kindness. They have often been surprised at the sincerity and friendliness they received in response. The individual stories from the guests of course are not easy to deal with.
Support for this project comes from the mission budgets of the two congregations as well as church partners from abroad.
Wärmestube Shopping List
What is bought weekly?
- Fruits (tangerines, mandarin oranges, bananas, …)
- Cheese (sliced)
- Wurst and/or Ham (cut)
What do we need for stock?
- Tissues (Large packs of individual tissues)
- Black and/or Fruit Tea
What food do we need prepared? and How Much?
- Soup: 3-4 pots of soup (2 of which are vegetarian). 8-10 liters of each variety
- Main dishes: 2-3 (again, 1-2 vegetarian). Casseroles, pasta dishes, potato goulash, stews, Letscho with rice, ham and potatoes – pretty much anything is acceptable
- Cakes: 7-10. Any variety, any amount. We can take as many as are offered. Can be store bought.
If you would like to help, please contact the church office.