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Gothenburg hotel leaves guests out in the cold

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Gothenburg hotel leaves guests out in the cold
09:12 CET+01:00
A Gothenburg hotel concept that is part social commentary, part installation has received worldwide attention by inviting guests to pay to be homeless for a night in the city.

Guests won't find fine dining or beautifully appointed accommodations at Faktum Hotels in Gothenburg, but it will provide its clientele with an unique visitor experience unknown to most - living rough.

The ten rooms available for rent allow one to experience the cold and the fear of sleeping in the nooks and crannies of the urban landscape, a reality that many of the city's homeless residents face almost every night.

Guests have several options of accommodations. They can book a room sleeping on a filthy mattress under a bridge, opt for a sleeping bag in the park, or perhaps pick a dank dirty floor lined with newspaper at an abandoned paper mill.

SEE ALSO: Pictures from the different Fakum Hotel sites

"We asked several of our homeless contacts where they often slept, then we set up our rooms," says Aaron Israelson, editor of Faktum magazine, which started the hotel in November 2012. They have since received about 1,000 bookings.

According to Israelson, that Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) estimates there are 3,400 homeless people in Gothenburg, with around 340 people actually sleep rough in the city on a given night.

Guests at the Faktum Hotel can book their rooms at the hotel's state of the art website at www.faktumhotels.com for 100 kronor a night ($15). It is also possible to purchase an evening for a friend.

But really, how many people actually book a room and stay the night?

"Well, not many," says Israelson.

"Few actually make it through the night and we had a very cold, harsh winter. But some really tried, with one woman managing to stay for about four hours."

Living rough in Sweden's second city, felt in body and soul, is not just experienced by people battling addiction or mental ill health. It also happens to women, children, and the elderly. In Malmö, more than half of people without a home of their own are women and children.

While the folks who book rooms can always return to their warm, furnished homes and apartments, the experience of staying at Faktum Hotels can be an eye-opener.

"A couple of guests who spent the night outdoors told me that it made them appreciate their every day life in a new way. The simple things like a warm bed, a roof, and a job," reflects Israelson.

"Many said that in the past they simply walked past a hotel spot without knowing it was a place that someone called home."

The project has also received press coverage from abroad. But what of the local reaction? One reporter told Israelson that when they contacted local government and the tourist board, both agencies declined to discuss the project.

"I'm afraid the local government has shown very little enthusiasm for Faktum Hotels or our street paper," explains Israelson.

"They like to think that everything is fine in our city."

While Faktum Hotels hopes to see bookings continue, making money is not the main goal of the project.

"Our primary mission is to spread the word about the homeless situation in this city. Gothenburg is a tough place to be homeless,” Israelson says.

"There are no real support systems in place."

While the money from bookings helps expand Faktum's non-profit organization, Israelson hopes that people will keep spreading the word through social media.

"We really want to raise awareness of the homeless situation so that our politicians will take action," he says.

One of the hotel rooms is tucked in under the bridge at Drottningtorget square. Its central locale illustrates that many city residents walk right by without even knowing or seeing a problem.

"Of course, no one likes to think about these things," says Israelson.

"But without awareness and help, the problems facing a society will not go away."

Lisa Mikulski

Follow Lisa Mikulski on Twitter here

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