How Two Homeless Men Found a Home on eBay

"We didn’t do this to become celebrities. We just wanted to find somewhere to live."

by Rebecca Baden
18 December 2017, 3:02pm

Dirk. All photos by Rebecca Baden.

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany

In November of 2017, Dirk and Stephan, two homeless friends from Berlin, placed an advert on eBay in search of a "landlord with a heart" to help them get off the streets. "We are two nice, sensible, homeless men, looking to get our lives back on track," their advert read. "We’re both in our early fifties, drug-free and we're not alcoholics."

Paying rent wasn't an issue for them. They have several part-time jobs between them – delivering beer kegs, helping people with their shopping and taking pets to the vet. "Every month, we make between €1,800 and €2,000 [£1760]," Dirk said. "That’s enough to afford a flat."

But landlords in Berlin still wouldn’t rent to them because they didn't have a credit score, they couldn’t submit several months of pay slips or prove that they had no outstanding debts. Also, the pair couldn’t come up with the large deposit most landlords in the city demand from tenants.

After their search for a flat became public, Dirk spent hours taking calls from TV networks offering a chance to appear across German television, but Dirk and Stephan turned them all down. They didn’t want that kind of attention – they just wanted a flat.

Finally, a month after their ad went up, they were offered a flat. I spoke to Dirk about their search, their new home and why they turned down the chance to be famous.

Dirk's sign, which reads, "Homeless, German, Not on unemployment benefits / Marriage, adoption, donation – decide now!

VICE: Hi Dirk, so how did you end up getting a flat?
Dirk: An Italian businessman got in touch with us. He had seen our listing, and had a flat that was available to rent. I didn’t believe it until we actually signed the contract last week. Incredibly, it’s an unlimited lease, too.

The apartment is in an old building and it has two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom – I pay €630 (£556) all-in. It’s in Moabit in central Berlin, which is a great location.

Do you know why he decided to rent to you?
He told us that when he first advertised the flat, he received over a hundred enquiries. But he’s deeply religious, and said that his inner voice – or God – instructed him to wait a bit longer before deciding who to rent it to.

He saw our ad a few days later and contacted me straight away. I explained to him that we had no credit rating or proof of income, but he said it was fine and that he would give us a chance. We eventually found out that 20 years ago, he was kicked out of the place he was living in by an ex-girlfriend and spent a week homeless – so he could empathise with our situation.

Watch: VICE Life Hacks with Oobah Butler – How To Get Free Food

Did a lot of people approach you after your ad was so widely shared and reported on?
There were so many enquiries from journalists, and an unbelievable number of people on Facebook offered us stuff – like furniture. Beyond that, we collected almost €2,000 through a crowd-funding campaign to go towards a deposit.

We still need a top-load washing machine, though. Could you put that in your article? Top-load, not front-load.

Some people offered you jobs to do, right?
Just dealing with the all the enquiries alone has taken up most of the last two weeks, but we both carried on working our part-time jobs. In the future, I want to start my own online business.

Did people recognise you?
My friends knew that our story was in the media, but, thankfully, strangers haven’t spoken to me about it – nobody recognised us from the photo in the ad either. I’d wouldn’t like to be famous, which was one of the reasons why we didn’t want to go on TV. Even when they offered us money – up to €500 (£440) per programme – we said no, because we didn’t do this to become celebrities. We just wanted to find somewhere to live. I couldn’t really go on TV on Saturday morning, and then come and sleep rough on the streets the next day. Everyone would see and laugh at me.

VICE International
VICE Germany