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Uwe’s Dream of a Night-café

 Hinz&Kunzt (Germany) 11 June 2019

(Originally published: 07/2009) He was homeless and a drug-addict. But since the former Hinz&K;üntzler (vendor of the street paper Hinz&Kuntz;) has meta student named Ole, his life has been set in motion. The combination could not be more different: Uwe is 44 and homeless; Ole Seidenberg studies sociology and is in his mid-twenties. In the last couple of weeks however, the two have found something in common. It’s a dream that is meant to come true – it’s Uwe’s dream and now it’s also Ole’s. Andreas Pröpping meets the unlikely duo hoping to bring a night café to the homeless people of Hamburg. (1196 words) - By Andreas Pröpping

HAMBURG, Germany - He was homeless and a drug-addict. But since the former Hinz&Küntzler (vendor of the street paper Hinz&Kuntz) has met a student named Ole, his life has been set in motion. The combination could not be more different: Uwe is 44 and homeless; Ole Seidenberg studies sociology and is in his mid-twenties. In the last couple of weeks however, the two have found something in common. It's a dream that is meant to come true - it's Uwe's dream and now it's also Ole's.

Uwe has been dreaming about opening up a night café in Hamburg for homeless people and other people in need for many years. He wants to create a drop-in centre, where people can feel safe and secure, a kind of hideout during cold nights. He does not intend to install sleeping berths, but ideally, the place will provide showers and above all a coffee bar. Uwe cannot remember how often he has wished for such a place; after all he has been living on the streets since 1988, and for 8 years now without interruption. After he was separated from his parents very early in his life, he lived in a children's home. After his vocational training as a cook and pastry chef, working in different hotels, Uwe ended up on the streets. From then on, drugs were his constant companion. Later on he lived a life of begging. "I've never really had my own apartment," Uwe says. Also that he had started his slovenly life very early. About half a year ago he quitted with the drugs, his doctor has given him a substitute drug. Uwe had never drunk alcohol.

Until a few weeks ago, Uwe's plan was merely a mirage, but not any more. Since then the former Hinz&Kuntz vendor has met Ole Seidenberg and he is determined to make his dream come true, with Ole's help of course.

Ole Seidenberg has been maintaining his own blog for about a year. He is engaged with social work and a real do-gooder. He publicises his thoughts and ideas on www.socialblogger.de. Now the site also displays regular up-dates on the so-called "Campaign Uwe".

Uwe and Ole met for the first time last year in November, at the Dammtor station. Back then it was a typical beggar-donor encounter, the student and the poor man, nothing special. They met accidentally again in January, in Mönckebergstraße on Uwe's birthday. Ole immediately remembered Uwe. They talked, they got along well, and Uwe told him about his dream of the night café. Ole wanted to do more than just give money to Uwe. And so, the idea formed to use the internet to get Uwe back on track. At first, Uwe was quite sceptical when a total stranger suddenly wanted to support him and had confidence in him. He had never known anything like this before.

Since this chance encounter, Ole has been writing about Uwe's life on his web page and has been asking for donations. He shoots videos, in which Uwe can talk about his life. Uwe gets all the money donated through the website with Ole acting as a makeshift accountant. He administers the funds, and watches out that the money is spent meaningfully.

Now Uwe has got new shoes, clothes and enough food to survive. He has even found a place to sleep in a harbourage, so that he does not need to sleep outdoors anymore. He even has an organiser and a mobile phone, for which he got a voucher. Uwe seems to be serious about achieving his goals and Ole is has Uwe's well-being, whom he refers to as a "real friend" now, at heart. That is exactly the way both want it to be: They want to be good friends, not more and not less.

Stephan Karrenbauer, a social worker at Hinz&Kuntz, has mixed feelings about "Campaign Uwe". He has met many homeless people with dreams. Only very few of them were able to realise their dreams, but only very few had a supporter like Ole. Generally speaking, Stephan Karrenbauer does not think the idea of a night café is "a bad one". There is a need for this, for sure. However, in his opinion, the action does not come without risks, "if it advances too fast, the pressure gets to big for Uwe, or he cannot live up to his own expectations".

First, there needs to be a solid basis for his life, before it is time to build up the night café, Karrenbauer thinks. But he hopes that Uwe gets new motivation through this support. Uwe can see now a new sense in his life since he has set himself the target of making his dream come true. "He makes progress every day", Ole says, and as Uwe develops in the right direction he also makes a much more fit impression on Stephan Karrenbauer.

Uwe and Ole know that they should not rush their plans. Therefore they have not set a time-limit. "I do know, that there is a long and tough way in front of me", Uwe says. "We both know, that I need a place to stay, before I can follow up on his other plans."

Step by step Uwe wants to find his way back into society, as he says "with Ole's help."  Originally Uwe was a cook and pastry chef. But he cannot practice his job anymore due to being infected with HIV.

Uwe does not think that his new role as "the internet begger" will outgrow him because he is convinced that he can grow with his new challenges. Also Ole does not want to ask too much of himself. So he is looking for people supporting his work. It often happens that Uwe tells Ole to take more time for himself, because the young man from Oldenburg should be writing on his final thesis as well as concentrating on his side-job with a company that develops environmental concepts.

But Uwe is not only a dreamer, he is also a realistic person. He is aware of his state of health. He knows, that he cannot take care of the night café forever, at least not on his own. And he understands that he will need Ole's help not only during the phase of planning. Without Ole, it would never be possible, and without Ole he would never have come so far.

About 500 Euros have been deposited on Ole's account for Uwe. And the campaign has been listed on www.helpedia.de lately. This makes it a lot easier to collect donations. Ole is very successful raising funds through the Internet. After all, the average donation is about 12 Euros, an amount impossible to get when begging on the street. Uwe does not want to beg anymore, he wants to concentrate fully on the project, he even wants to sell Hinz&Kuntz again. He also wants to find a one-Euro job. He is willing to show, that he really wants this.

You can see Uwe, Ole and the blog on www.socialblogger.com

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