Every Monday to Thursday evening, the Gute Nacht Bus makes scheduled stops around Dusseldorf.
But rather than ferrying passengers around, its purpose is to provide hot and cold food for the city’s homeless, along with other essentials including toothbrushes and clothes.
As part of Intercontinental Hotels Group’s Giving for Good Month this September, which encourages all of the company’s brands to participate in activities that make a positive contribution to communities, the Intercontinental Dusseldorf supported the Gute Nacht bus.
The bus helps the homeless and poor at night on the streets of Dusseldorf by filling the gap left when the daytime facilities for those in need close. The vehicle acts as a mobile dining room, as well as a means of transport for emergencies.
This year Intercontinental Dusseldorf chefs cooked a chilli con carne, and then hotel staff joined the bus for two of the six stops, to help distribute the food and spend some time with the people who use the services.
“It was about two years ago when one of our colleagues heard about the bus,” said Susann Fellen, who helps coordinate the hotel’s charitable activities as well as all of its sustainability efforts and responsible business initiatives.
“We were looking for local charities to help as part of the Giving for Good month, and the Gute Nacht Bus proved to be very popular with the colleagues that took part.”
Fellen explained that, although it was the hotel’s chefs who prepared the food (around 100 meals), it was members of other departments including sales and front office managers who went out to help.
“They were impressed with the whole organisation, and also the fact that the volunteers who run the bus refer to the people they help as ‘clients’, just as we might do for the guests of our hotel.
“We could see that the charity makes a difference for the homeless people, obviously, but it also has a positive effect on our employees. It gives them the opportunity to do something good.”
Fellen said the hotel also intends to help in January and February, having been told by the charity that members of the public tend to be generous to the homeless up until Christmas, but in January and February help is less forthcoming.
“We have also learned from helping this time. For instance, the clients told us that they would like a vegetarian option, and also that it would be good for the food to be not very spicy, since this can cause problems for them.”
The Gute Nacht Bus sets off at 10pm each night and follows the same routes and stops so that clients can be sure of where to catch it.
“The philosophy of the hotel and IHG is to have a positive effect on the local community, so we wanted a local partner and charities that had an impact here in Dusseldorf,” Fellen added.
“It also helps inspire the colleagues to take part, though once they come back talking about how much they enjoyed it then it is very easy to find new volunteers from the hotel to help as well.”
The hotel also has two partners which it solicits donations for: Dolphin Aid and BürgerStiftung Düsseldorf – a citizens’ foundation in Dusseldorf that enables the city’s inhabitants to help each other through donations of time, money or items.