(en) report on situation of homeless people

MPrey (MPrey@xtc.fido.de)
25 Jan 1997 01:53:00 +0100


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The following message was written by german anarchist comrade who has been following the reports on the situation of homeless people in the established media this winter. I am forwarding the mail to the list sicne it is a subject that has not seen much attention in anarchist activities and publications and because the report transports some general idea about the social and housing situations mainly in germany but also in some other european countries.

Robert (from the A-Infos collective in germoney)

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Contents: 1# re: situation of homeless persons during the present cold weather 2# re: Neo-Nazi youths attack dishoused persons

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1# re: situation of homeless persons during the present cold weather

Since before Christmas, Europe has seen uncommonly low temperatures: the present spell of cold weather is earlier than usual this year and brought rather unusual temperatures of up to minus 26 degrees Centigrade at nights and minus 18 degrees C during daytime in Germany. Poland and Romania have seen temperatures down to minus 37 degrees, and even the south of France saw snowfalls and frost for days now.

These temperatures effect homeless people especially, and on January 3, mainstream media report 31 persons to have died of exposure in Germany, saying that most of them were homeless persons. At least one homeless man died of exposure during the night while seeking shelter in an abandoned house. The figure of deaths occured was updated to 40 persons on January 4, although temperatures have risen from minus 20-12 to about minus 12-6 during the day for two days now. The latest update was on Jan 7 with 50 persons reported dead in Germany which was the last update on the figure. Apart from annoucing the increasing number of persons dying (starting with 2 deaths over Christmas), mainstream media did not take up the issue, reporting about bad conditions on rivers and the problems for ships much rather than covering living conditions. This changed for about a week, however, when there was media coverage on the situation of dishoused persons on TV and in papers.

The number of deaths for Romania was announced at 40 over the Christmas days and has not been updated since. Reports said that conditions were not only bad for dishoused persons, especially the fairly high number of children living in the streets: the average income in Romania is so low that the majority of families can only afford to buy either food or heating materials, but not both. Latest reports say that Romania and Bulgaria see severe energy problems now, since part of the electricity plants have broken down due to the freezing cold. Poland now has the deepest temperatures in Europe (minus 37 degrees), and the number of persons dying from exposure is reported at 40 persons by January 3. Most of them are reported to be dishoused persons who are estimated to total 200,000 -300,000 persons in Poland.

In France, 35 persons are reported to have died in the present cold weather, most of them homeless persons, too. Now soup kitchens are being opened for homeless persons. Dishoused persons complain about the situation in public shelters which turn them out at 6 o|clock in the morning, making them stay out in the cold until the late hours, since they accept people only for the night.A radio station called Urgence is operating for three month in France now, broadcasting two hours per day, which gives information to dishoused persons, e.g. where to get cheap meals or meals for free or addresses where they can sleep in basements and empty houses. They reckon, however, that the clientele who would listen to them are those persons who are living on the street for a short time only.

Several organizations working for homeless persons in Hamburg/Germany have demanded again to open subway stations for dishoused people during the night, but still half state owned subway company will not listen to their appeals. Hamburg mayor refused the appeals and commented that nobody did have to sleep in the streets in Hamburg.

The city of Hamburg provides public shelters for homeless persons, so e.g. in containers and on ships in the outskirts of the port originally meant to house refugees, or the notorious Pik-As (= Ace of Spades) which is open all year to also take up sailors too drunk to get back to their ships. The sleeping quarters offered are not too well accepted by dishoused persons. The reasons are: they are afraid of having to sleep in one room with about 40 or 50 persons (which is not the case), they complain about thefts being very frequent in these quarters. Dishoused persons also say that living conditions in those quarters are bad since there are people heavily addicted to alcohol and smack (which may be the reasons for thefts), and complain that these quarters were dirty. One dishoused persons interviewed on German TV said that you would pick up all sorts of nasty things there, like lice and crabs.Part of the dishoused persons live in groups, and those groups will be split up in public shelters, though. These groups improve the conditions for the individual person, as people will look after one another and also make sure that there is no alcohol abuse which would be fatal in this weather.Mainstream media say that only in Hamburg about 500 dishoused persons will refuse using these quarters even in the present temperatures of up to minus 19 degrees.Rumours among the homeless population in Hamburg claim that already two persons have died from exposure during the last two days, but there is no official admittance up to now. What can be said definitely, though, is that one person who had a regular sleeping place in the entrance of a bank in the city centre had his dogs taken away from him by the police and did not show up at his sleeping place for two days now. Dishoused persons sleeping regularly in neighbouring entrances say that he died of exposure.

Starting this year, organizations operating in Hamburg on either private donations and/or cooperating with both protestant and catholic church have started a free service for homeless persons, the Midnight Bus, distributing tea and soup during nights. For the last week, they have also distributed sleeping bags, gloves and warm socks, since just one sleeping bag is not enough to protect persons from the cold in these temperatures. A report broadcasted on German TV showed that appeals by the Midnight Bus workers to go to public shelters are turned down by those dishoused persons still living outdoors. Another service taken up this year ensures free medical treatment for homeless persons. Doctors will go around the city of Hamburg in an ambulance van, making a tour of places where homeless persons seek shelter under bridges or in the entrances of department stores. Although under the present conditions in Germany, homeless persons will be entitled to free medical treatment and will be able to obtain according documents from social benefit offices, most of them do not make use of this opportunity. There are several reasons for homeless people not accepting this: a good part of them does not know about it; others will feel ashamed to go to a doctor|s office. With many homeless persons, alcohol is a severe problem and this drug abuse will cause neglect to physical problems. The service of doctors going to places where homeless persons live in the streets, however, is widely accepted by the clientele and shows a good success. Starting from January 4, the German Railway Company will open railway stations for dishoused persons during the night, thus making an official policy what has been done in some railway stations already, like in Hamburg station, where security guards said that they would not turn out dishoused persons in these temperatures.On January 3, the administration in Frankfort/Main announced that they will open some of the subway stations during the night.

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#2 re: Neo-Nazi youths attack dishoused persons

In Sebnitz, a small town in the federal state of Saxony, two Neonazis attacked two dishoused persons sleeping in the streets on New Years Eve. Both are injured, one of them so severely that he still is not able to help the police. Police were investigating in the local Neo-Nazi scene (which is surprising enough), saying that they had a gang of young men who had been beating up homeless persons before.

On January 3, police announced two arrests: a 17 and a 21-year-old admitted to have beaten up the two persons. Both had been arrested for the same reason before.

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