"Obdach Wien" should create new offers for homeless persons

08 March 2024 – No legal basis for institutional control

Obdach Wien gemeinnützige GmbH is one of the largest organisations in the frame of the Viennese Assistance to the Homeless. It offers a variety of services such as counselling and support, day centres, night shelters and accommodation. Funding for these facilities is provided by the Vienna Social Fund (FSW). In its report "Obdach Wien gemeinnützige GmbH", the ACA sees a potential for action, in particular regarding the legal framework conditions and the future direction and design of the services provided.

During the audited period, the Viennese Assistance to the Homeless was in the process of implementing a change of strategy. The new strategy is guided by the ‘Housing First’ approach, which aims to provide homeless persons with their own home as soon as possible. Contrary to other organisations in the field, Obdach Wien did not provide specific offers based on the Housing First approach up to the time of the audit. For example, the Housing First principle can be better suited to match the needs of homeless women, as shown by the higher proportion of females taking up such offers.

The ACA points out that a control gap has opened up in the Viennese Assistance to the Homeless. Due to legal changes, there is no more supervision of technical (safety), organizational, personnel and hygienic matters. The audit period covered the years from 2019 to 2022.

Legal basis required for institutional control

With a market share of 25 percent in 2021, Obdach Wien is one of the major organizations of the Viennese Assistance to the Homeless. A subsidiary of the Vienna Social Fund, Obdach Wien is organized as a non-profit limited liability company. In 2022, it attended to 7,637 homeless persons and operated such facilities as day centres, emergency accommodation, warming rooms, temporary housing and assisted living facilities.

No public authority or other control body was in charge of reviewing if the technical, safety, organizational, personnel and hygienic requirements of professional social services are met. Following a ruling by the Vienna Administrative Court on the scope of the Vienna Welfare Assistance Act, regulatory supervision by the Municipal Department 40 (MA 40) was terminated in 2021. In 2018, for instance, MA 40 ascertained a total of 31 deficiencies which were found in 67 percent of the controls carried out. In 2022: no controls, no deficiencies. The ACA recommends to the City of Vienna to work toward establishing a legal basis for regulatory oversight on facilities for homeless persons.

Housing First: Higher proportion of female users

During the audited period, the Vienna Social Fund registered an annual number of 12,373 to 12,591 users of the services provided in the frame of the Viennese Assistance to the Homeless. The share of men was much higher than the share of women. In 2021, for example, the share of females users of all services for homeless persons was 35 percent – but 50 percent when looking only at Housing First. Thus, Housing First services could be more suited to cater for the needs of homeless women than other approaches of the Viennese Assistance to the Homeless.

The ACA recommends that the Vienna Social Fund assesses the effectivity of Housing First services with regards to women. The insights gained should be used for adapting the services provided by Obdach Wien. Unlike other organisations, Obdach Wien did not provide specific services based on the Housing First principle up to the time of the audit. However, this approach is a central element of the new strategy of the Viennese Assistance to the Homeless.

Continuously negative annual results

In 2022, the total annual expenditures of Obdach Wien amounted to EUR 34.61 million whereas the total revenues were EUR 34.41 million. The annual results of Obdach Wien were negative in each year from 2018 to 2022. This was due to late confirmation of fees and unpaid user charges, among other things. With a view to sustainable development, the ACA recommends taking timely measures to stabilise the economic situation. Operations should be improved as ascertained in the report, e.g. regarding the dunning processes.

The ACA criticises that for example, receivables of around EUR 439,000 (out of EUR 1.71 million) were written off by Obdach Wien in 2022 due to unpaid user fees. The ACA comprehends that services for homeless persons form part of the lowest social net, and that measures which may lead to a loss of housing should only be applied very selectively. However, according to the internal instructions of Obdach Wien, the regular and timely payment of the fees is essential for learning how to manage regular payments, and considered an important aspect of living independently.


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Report: "Obdach Wien gemeinnützige GmbH" (in German)

Report: "Obdach Wien gemeinnützige GmbH" (in German) Download