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Homelessness in Germany
Located in Central Europe, tourists visit Germany to enjoy its world-famous beer, flavorful bread and historic castles. However, despite Germany’s booming economy, the country suffers from a high rate of homelessness. According to the Federal Association for Assistance to Homeless People (BAGW), approximately 650,000 Germans currently do not own a home. Two German restaurants, Hofbraeu Berlin and Istanbul Kebap Pizza, as well as the nonprofit organizations, Rise Foundation e.V. and v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel, strive to tackle homelessness in Germany by offering housing, food, job training, counseling and basic necessities to those living on the streets.

German Restaurants

Many restaurants in Germany have begun donating their food to the homeless population. However, two establishments called Istanbul Kebap Pizza and Hofbraeu Berlin stand out for engaging in charity work.

Located in Koblenz, Germany, Istanbul Kebap Pizza hands out complimentary food to homeless individuals who come in on Thursday evenings. The restaurant produces a surplus of leftover food at the end of the day, which guests gratefully consume. The homeless can enjoy a wide variety of Turkish cuisine, such as “doner, pizza and other meals.”

The Hofbraeu Berlin restaurant in Berlin, Germany used to attract thousands of tourists during peak seasons. However, after COVID-19 cases became rampant in Germany, the restaurant put a stop to dine-in eating. Now, the business offers a place for homeless people to relax and enjoy free gourmet meals and regular food. In addition to offering food, the restaurant’s continuation of public bathroom usage allows individuals to remain clean and sanitary. Non-profit organizations also frequent the restaurant to give professional guidance and warm garments to the guests.

Rise Foundation e.V.

The Rise Foundation e.V. began in 2018 and strives to eradicate homelessness in Germany by encouraging human connection and handing out food and basic necessities. With the help of volunteers, the organization cooks homemade vegetarian meals and heats up tea and coffee to provide the homeless with warm meals. Volunteers attempt to establish a relationship with homeless people to demonstrate compassion and respect. The foundation also hands out first aid kits, hygiene products, clothes and other basic necessities, as well as pamphlets on useful resources, such as where to find places to sleep, free healthcare services, professional guidance and recreational activities.

v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel

v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel was founded in 1867 with a mission to help elderly, unemployed, disabled and mentally ill individuals, as well as children and college students. More specifically, the organization aids the homeless in obtaining housing and finding self-autonomy. It does this by providing a place for the homeless to temporarily stay and assisting them in obtaining permanent housing.

Bethel Foundation volunteers also go to homeless communities and provide medical care, including counseling services for mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, the foundation teaches essential skills needed for securing a job and provides guidance on how to search for employment.

Overall, the efforts of German restaurants and nonprofit organizations help many homeless individuals obtain basic necessities and find their independence. As more entities join the fight against homelessness in Germany, the nation will hopefully see a decrease in the number of people living on the streets.

Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Homelessness in Germany
The latest stats by the Federal Association of Homelessness Help (BAGW) show that there were 678,000 homeless people in Germany in 2018. This figure marked an increase of more than 4 percent between 2017 and 2018. The majority of these people sleep in emergency quarters, while 41,000 sleep on the streets.

Causes of Homelessness

In Germany, there are several factors that contribute to homelessness. One is the decreased number of social housing units. Social housing units have reduced by 60 percent since 1990 as the government continues to sell its stock of housing units to private investors. Additionally, there has been a decrease in affordable housing, particularly in large cities and urban centers. Studies show that housing costs in Germany are among the highest in Europe. This affects those with incomes below the poverty threshold, as well as young people (ages 18-24). Munich is reported to have the highest prices for both renting and buying houses in Germany. Berlin, which is said to be at the center of housing shortages in Germany, could account for about 20 percent of the country’s homeless.

Finally, the increase in immigrants has greatly contributed to the rise of homelessness in Germany. The immigrants are from other European Union countries, particularly Eastern European, and are also refugees and asylum seekers. It is estimated that 440,000 of the homeless are migrants. The number of homeless people with migrant backgrounds rose by 5.9 percent compared to a 1.2 percent increase for those without a migrant background.

Housing Rights in Germany

In large cities and urban centers, such as Berlin and Munich, the homeless set up makeshift tent camps in parks and other open spaces. During the winter, in an attempt to avoid the adverse winter conditions, they relocate to U-Bahn (underground railway) stations. Law requires German municipalities to provide basic emergency accommodation to those at risk of homelessness. Various municipalities and NGOs are providing temporary and emergency housing services.

In addition, the Social Code in Germany stipulates that the risk of losing a home entitles the owner to some form of assistance. Covered by the municipalities, this could be a loan or allowance for rental debts. Of the 16 German states, only four of them have the right to housing enshrined in their state constitutions including Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg and Bremen. However, regulation throughout the country still establishes the right.

Current Efforts

In 2018, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to spend €6.85 billion on solutions to homelessness. She announced that the federal government would aim to build 1.5 million new housing units and 100,000 new social housing units by 2021. There are also more immediate relief efforts that individuals and German cities provided. For example, the city of Berlin is offering a warm hall in Kreuzberg as an alternative to the U-Bahn stations the homeless would stay in during the winter. Entrepreneur Matthias Müller is doing his part to help the homeless in Germany by introducing a shower caravan in Berlin. Matthias transformed a bus into the shower caravan, which is a unit with a sink, shower and toilet so that homeless women can maintain personal hygiene. The caravan is also accessible to people with disabilities.

Solutions

BAGW estimates that Germany needs 200,000 new affordable housing units each year to manage homelessness. The federal government, various municipalities and NGOs could also work together to emulate Finland’s Housing First approach. In this method, the goal is not to have temporary or emergency accommodation, but instead, permanent housing and needs-based support. This way, instead of just managing homelessness, Germany could end it completely.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr