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Homelessness in Germany: According to a study, 37,400 people live on the streets

2022-09-27T12:35:02.741Z

For the first time, a study has reliably collected how many homeless people there are in Germany. It shows that there are fewer than previously thought. Many gave dirty and dangerous accommodation as the reason.



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Better on the street than in the shelter: Many homeless people stated in the study that shelters were too dangerous or too dirty for them

Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich / dpa

In Germany, 37,400 people live on the streets - about 20 percent fewer than previously thought.

This is shown by a study commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS), which was published on Monday.

According to their own statements, researchers have for the first time representatively surveyed how many homeless people there are in Germany.

Previous figures were based on estimates by a homeless association.

Most recently, there was talk of around 45,000 homeless people.

"It is the first time in Europe that reliable figures have been collected in a country as large as Germany," said Volker Busch-Geertsema, board member of the Society for Innovative Social Research and Social Planning (GISS) and co-author of the study, to SPIEGEL.

GISS carried out the study on behalf of the Ministry.

A total of 90,000 people not institutionally cared for

According to the study, there are 49,000 people who are “covertly homeless” in addition to the homeless.

“Hidden homelessness is often the first route people take who have lost their home – they ask friends, relatives or acquaintances if they can stay with them.

These are people who, in dire need, do not know where to stay and want to avoid having to sleep on the street,” said Busch-Geertsema.

In addition, an additional 6,600 underage children and young people were homeless - 1,100 together with their parents on the street and around 5,500 in hidden homelessness.

Overall, the number of those who would not be cared for permanently in any institution therefore amounts to 90,000 people.

Half of all homeless women said they had experienced sexual violence

According to the study, 80 percent of homeless people in Germany are men.

Around a third are not German citizens.

The most common reason why people live on the streets is rent arrears.

Separations and imprisonments were also cited as reasons.

A quarter of all homeless people said they had never rented an apartment in Germany - because they came from abroad or became homeless immediately after moving out of their parents' house.

Half of the respondents had been living on the streets for more than a year.

According to the study, life on the street is dangerous: two-thirds of those surveyed stated that they had experienced violence.

Homeless women are therefore particularly often at risk of sexual violence.

More than half of them stated that they had already been sexually harassed, abused or raped.

For men it was just over four percent.

According to the study, most homeless people have already lived in a shelter for homeless people.

As a reason why they still lived on the streets, they often gave that too many people were housed there or that the accommodations were too dangerous for them because they could be robbed there.

Many said the shelters were too dirty for them and they would find better places to sleep elsewhere.

Two-thirds of those surveyed stated that their health was poor.

A fifth reported a physical illness, about the same number were mentally ill.

According to the study, almost a third had an addiction.

Most of the findings are similar for the homeless and covertly homeless—but the covertly homeless are often only marginally better off.

"There is often the term 'couch surfer' for these people, but the study shows that their situation is just as precarious as for people who live on the streets," said Volker Busch-Geertsema from GISS.

Counting homeless people is difficult because the group is not recorded anywhere in a structured way due to their living situation.

The researchers therefore selected a sample of 151 German municipalities for the survey, including all major cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants, and randomly selected smaller towns and municipalities.

Institutions dealing with homeless people were contacted in these communities.

"We didn't send people out onto the streets at night to interview people who looked like homeless people," says Busch-Geertsema.

Instead, people trusted in offers for poor people: "Tafels, soup kitchens, clothing stores, the advice centers for women and many more".

For a week at the beginning of February, employees there counted the homeless people arriving at their home.

In total, the participating institutions counted more than 17,000 homeless people.

These numbers were then weighted and extrapolated.

In order to interview those affected, questionnaires were distributed to every second person from the target group.

According to GISS, the information from 465 institutions and 1,535 homeless people could be evaluated.

1,112 of them were "homeless people without accommodation", colloquially homeless people, 423 were covert homeless people.

The background to the count is the Homeless Reporting Act passed in March 2020, which stipulates, among other things, that homeless people in Germany should be counted.

"There's definitely room for improvement there," said Busch-Geertsema, "but it's mandatory that numbers be collected on this topic every two years." The survey supplements the homelessness statistics of the Federal Statistical Office, which were published in July.

This included all homeless people who lived in emergency or community accommodation in January 2022, a total of 178,000 were counted.

The study now presented should count all those people who are not cared for in shelters - the 90,000 now counted.

There is a small overlap between the counts, said Busch-Geertsema.

»If you subtract the double numbers and add everything up, there were over 263,000 people in Germany who were homeless.«

The findings of the study should be used to improve offers for the homeless, said Busch-Geertsema.

»In the coalition agreement, politicians have set themselves the goal of overcoming homelessness in Germany by 2030.

The study shows improvement opportunities in prevention and access to support that should be used to achieve this goal,” he said.

The number of homeless people is not so high that it would be impossible to reduce homelessness to a minimum by 2030.

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Source: spiegel

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