“Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore.” As beautiful as the Rilke poem about the approaching end of the year may sound—for the homeless, the onset of winter is the worst punishment. The Federal Working Group for Homelessness (BAG W) reported this week that the homeless now number almost 1 million in Germany, approximately 860,000.
The latest figures mean that in “rich” Germany, one in a hundred inhabitants is without a place to live. So much for the ubiquitous media commentary about how well things are going in Germany: “The Germans live well” (FAZ), “Germany is experiencing the strongest economic recovery in a long time” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), and the Frankfurter Rundschau: ”Is the German economy really too good?”
In reality, it is only going well for a narrow layer of the population. The bottom of society confronts a catastrophic social situation that has enormously explosive implications.
The number of homeless is increasing from month to month. Last year it literally exploded. Although there are no definitive statistics, in December 2016, the federal government put the number at 335,000. The BAG W, which calculates its figures from reports produced by support services and social institutions, assumes that homeless population has increased two and a half times since 2014.
Not all homeless people sleep permanently outdoors, beneath a bridge or underpass. Most find refuge in shelters, sleep in public facilities such as a women’s shelter or homeless shelter, or temporarily stay with friends. But the number of those who are living permanently or predominantly on the street has increased massively and is estimated to be more than 50,000…