Conditions for Germany’s homeless can border on squalor, NGO says
The German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR)published its annual report on Wednesday, highlighting the dire need for affordable housing as the number of homeless continues to rise. The report also criticized the practice of using temporary housing as long-term residences.
According to the study, the number of homeless people in Germany is between 313,00 and 542,000. It is difficult to determine a precise number, due to varying definitions of homelessness — they sometimes include a mix of people forced to live with friends or relatives, refugees living in camps, people who live in their car or a caravan or in emergency shelters.
The DIMR found that rising homelessness was particularly prevalent in Berlin, where the number tripled between 2014 and 2016. However, the report stressed, eight federal states do not count the number of homeless people at all, and nationwide statistics are not kept – and none are expected to be available until 2022.
One of the most acute issues facing German institutions, DIMR said, was the way temporary housing is used as a semi-permanent solution due to lack of available public or affordable accommodations.
‘Bordering on squalor’
“State statistics make it clear that accommodation provided under police/public-order law, originally intended as an emergency solution and short-term measure — for a few days or weeks — is increasingly one for the longer term. Around one-third of those provided with accommodation in this manner remain there for more than two years,” the report read.
The report took the German government to task for the lack of affordable places to live, saying that the bare minimum offered in most places does not meet the German legal right to adequate housing.
DIMR wrote that what homeless people could expect in terms of available services depended solely on the financial means of the municipality they were in.
“Accommodation facilities vary greatly, ranging from ˈnormal housingˈ (flats) to multi-bed dormitories in collective accommodation facilities, from impeccable hygienic conditions to bordering on squalor,” the report said.
The NGO said without nationwide standards, the situation was likely to get worse over time.
The report also pointed out that there is inadequate care for many of the primary factors behind homelessness, such as addiction, mental illiness, or long-term physical disability.