You've been out with your friends all night, and now it's time to go home. You are tired, and you wish you could just tele-transport yourself into your bed. But, the journey back awaits, and with it the slight apprehension that sometime comes when walking alone through the quiet streets at night. But a new project has been making the return journey that little bit more enjoyable.
Heimwegtelefon is a hotline anyone in Germany can ring when they are feeling vulnerable on their way back home from a night out. The idea came to founders Frances Berger and Anabell Schuchhardt while living in Stockholm, where local police stations already provided a similar service. They decided that in Germany too the trip back home after a night out should not be a source of anxiety.
Back in Berlin, they started Heimwegtelefon in 2014. The project, a social enterprise now in its third year, has grown to a team of some 50 volunteers who are on hand to answer calls. They not only provide a friendly voice at the end of the telephone, but establish callers' locations (which they can quickly pass on to the police in case of emergencies), and remain connected until callers have reached their destination.
Callers don't just feel, but also look reassured, and this can help prevent them from becoming victims of crime, as criminals tend to target those who appear more vulnerable.
The team are keen to point out that the service is there to give reassurance to those who may need it, rather than to say to people, particularly women, that they should feel anxious when coming back home late at night. Indeed most of the times I myself feel totally at ease returning home at night, but there have also been occasions when I have felt more vulnerable. Heimwegtelefon has been set up precisely for those moments.
The service is currently available Sunday to Thursdays between 20-24:00, and Fridays and Saturdays between 22:00-4:00. Wherever you are in Germany, you can just ring 030 1207 4182, at the cost of a standard call to a landline.
This is certainly a very useful number to have, particularly for those who may be new in town, and/or have few friends or family who they could phone late at night.
Plans for the future include a free hotline number, as well as expanding the service into Austria and Switzerland.