A snack bar owner in the town of Bestwig has invited the needy to eat at his shop and pay him back whenever they can. He says the attention his offer has created hasn’t affected him or his profits.
Huseyin Yusuf said he was "shaken" at the attention his small doner kebab restaurant, Haci Baba's, has received since he placed a small sign on the counter inviting the needy and homeless to eat at his restaurant and pay later, if they are able to pay at all.
A few weeks ago Yusuf posted a message on Facebook asking locals to send anyone hungry to his door. It was shared over 10,000 times in a matter of days and brought all manner of German media outlets, from local papers to popular TV channel RTL, to the little town of Bestwig, where Haci Baba's sits right across from the train station.
"I opened this restaurant about five months ago. This offer I'm making now I've actually been doing the whole time, just not officially. When I began to notice that people were coming in who didn't have much money, I would just give them something for free," Yusuf told DW, grinning and adding, "It's fun for me to make someone smile!"
Yusuf said he didn't understand why everyone was shocked at his idea: "Every doner kebab shop in the area that I know of…I am one hundred percent sure, is doing the exact same thing, but unofficially."
The young proprietor said he was often asked if he feared a massive wave descending on his restaurant, running him out of business.
"Maybe we would need to then limit it to a certain number of free meals a day but…But no, I think we'll manage," he said, explaining that his philosophy on giving was that "it has to hurt a bit," and that real generosity requires a bit of sacrifice.
His customers agree, though they were a little more cynical than Yusuf.
"I think it's a great concept. I don't know anyone else that would do it," a middle-aged man who came in for lunch said.
"As long as no one exploits it," he added cautiously.
Increasing gap between rich and poor
Yusuf said he was disappointed no other cafes or shops in the area had decided to follow his lead, but urged "every doner shop, every clothing store and every bakery" to give away what they can to the less fortunate, explaining "everyone could do it if they wanted to! It's a tiny portion of what we earn."
Despite Germany's reputation as the economic powerhouse of Europe, with the lowest unemployment and the highest GDP in the European Union, Germany's umbrella organization for housing assistance, BAGW, estimated that 284,000 people found themselves without a home in 2012 and that number was expected to rise 30 percent by 2016.
A study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin similarly found that although in some aspects Germany was doing quite well, from 2000 to 2009 the disparity between rich and poor increased by almost twice as much as the OECD average and was continuing to climb. In 2012, 28 percent of adult Germans had no net worth, or a negative one, with western Germany far wealthier than the east.
Unlike his customer, Yusuf wasn't concerned that his generosity might be abused. When asked if he suspected the system of being exploited, he laughed and said "sometimes children who aren't really needy but you know don't have much money of their own have come in and asked about the offer. I don't see it as exploiting anything…and it's actually brought me to my next idea, but that's a secret for now!"