Sleeping rough in Europe’s economic powerhouse: Homelessness on the rise in Germany

Germany accounts for more than a quarter of the EU’s economic output, and has been described by every news outlet going as a “powerhouse.” But behind the headlines, homelessness is rising, and recession looms.

The number of homeless people in Germany rose by more than four percent between 2017 and 2018, a new report from the Federal Association for Assistance to Homeless People (BAGW) revealed on Monday. Some 678,000 people were without permanent accommodation last year, up from 650,000 in 2017. Of these, 41,000 were sleeping on the streets.

Though Germany’s economic success was credited with saving the weaker economies of Eurozone outliers like Greece, Spain and Ireland during the great recession, wealth inequality in Germany skyrocketed during this time. Among those left behind by Germany’s prosperity are workers from other EU states and refugees and migrants, among whom homelessness rates shot up by six percent last year, compared to a one percent increase for native Germans.

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BAGW recommends the government build more affordable housing, calling for between 80,000 and 100,000 new council flats every year, and another 100,000 private affordable houses.

But the German government might not be in a position to help for much longer. The country’s economic growth has been slowing this year so far, with the release of the latest official figures leading some economists to predict a coming Europe-wide recession. 

Predictions of Germany’s economic contraction are still predictions. For the country’s homeless population, the single largest threat is likely the dropping temperatures. Last winter, at least nine homeless people died in cold weather. With more on the streets this year, that tragedy could soon be repeated.

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