Whether domestic violence, psychological impairments, poverty or a combination of different problems: the social service for Catholic women takes care of women in need. But the help is reaching its limits in view of the price increases.

Mishi Khan (not his real name) starts his new life in poverty. In October she fled from her abusive husband. Because the women’s shelters in Trier no longer had any vacancies, she found refuge in the emergency shelter of the Catholic Women’s Social Service (SKF).

However, with the decision to take control of her own life, Khan now faces some challenges. In view of the price increases in all areas of life, financial ones are among them.

In recent years, Khan has taken care of the household and the upbringing of the child born to a surrogate mother. The 34-year-old cannot father children herself.

“I was a typical Asian woman,” says the native Pakistani, who has now acquired German citizenship, describing her earlier life.

Part of that culture for her was being under emotional pressure from her husband and family to obey. But she no longer wanted to accept the violence.

With little knowledge of German – she conducts the conversation in English – and without a job, Khan is initially dependent on social assistance: unemployment benefit II.

She describes it as difficult to find a two-room apartment for herself and hopefully later for the child for 620 euros including rent. She found what she was looking for comparatively quickly after just one month.

But now living with 450 euros a month – with the current inflation that is hardly manageable. “That’s not enough,” Khan states. 50 euros of that went away for electricity alone, deposit, internet, bus tickets would also have to be paid for with it.

If anything, there were still 300 euros left, she calculates and says: “The 450 euros would only be needed for food and clothing.”

SKF Managing Director Regina Bergmann is well acquainted with such financial worries, especially when it comes to energy costs.

The organization traditionally works with people on low incomes, and since the end of 2020 there has been an increasing number of people suffering from rising energy costs.

“But most of the inquiries are new,” she sums up. Among other things, the wave of bankruptcies at discount suppliers have increasingly led to problems here. Because the customers then had to go to the much more expensive basic service, while the prices kept rising – but not the income.

The SKF has now reacted to this and set up a donation pot to help in emergencies with supermarket vouchers, down payments or energy-saving electrical appliances.

The organization has been distributing the vouchers since the panel closures caused by the pandemic in 2020. “We want to catch up where there is high pressure,” says Bergmann.

In addition, a part-time position was created just for energy advice. Through the cooperation with the consumer advice center, she found out about the desperate situation of many of those affected and acted at an early stage.

“Some of the callers are mentally exhausted and express suicidal thoughts,” says Bergmann. Since there are currently mainly fears, the team can intervene and support at an early stage.

But from next spring she expects an increasing number of eviction lawsuits. “The electricity is included in the standard rate. If the price suddenly doubles, that’s a real problem,” she stresses. The SKF itself expects additional costs of around 100,000 euros for its own premises.

She suspects that the citizen’s allowance, which will replace unemployment benefit II in the coming year, will not change people’s concerns. Bergmann is also concerned about the housing shortage and the lack of affordable housing for the clientele.

“Where resources are scarce, the risks of social upheaval are greater,” she warns. In this chain, children are the most helpless. The offers of help and voluntary structures such as the Tafel that the SKF operates in Trier are not designed for crises like the current one.

Politicians are called upon to find solutions to the problems they create. Bergmann criticizes appeals for donations for poor people in Germany from this site as “inadmissible paternalism”. Rather, what is needed is a systematic anti-poverty policy.

With the various support offers, the SKF, with its around 180 employees, says it reaches around 4,000 people a year and provides 66 places for women and children – these are currently fully occupied.

“One phenomenon this year was that we were also in the summer,” says Bergmann. It is therefore planned to create additional space with containers on the company’s own premises.

Despite the accompanying advisory services, there is not as much fluctuation at the Tafel as in previous years. “The price increases make it almost impossible to manage with the standard rate in such a way that you can live comfortably,” says Bergmann.

Mishi Khan wants to work in the future and earn her own living. She is currently making sure that her master’s degree in business administration from Pakistan is also recognized in Germany. She also wants to acquire language level B1.

However, her priority is currently being able to adopt her child – due to surrogacy, custody has so far been solely with the father. A prerequisite for any chance of success in court was her own apartment, which she now has, according to Khan.

“Everyone wants to work and not rely on welfare. But sometimes you need them in difficult times,” she says. Even those who don’t work and don’t contribute to the social system are part of society and belong, Bergmann points out.

In the conversation, Khan also expresses her appreciation for the SKF. “They offer accommodation and support in every respect,” she praises the solutions.

After years of being isolated in the household with her violent husband, she has now found social points of contact here. “It makes a big difference, the people give me self-confidence,” she says, optimistic that she will also be able to master the challenges that lie ahead.

For the donation pot and other social projects for women in need, the Social Service for Catholic Women in Trier is happy to receive support via the online donation page.