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About Homelessness, Poverty And Social Welfare

Today I found a post of a fellow blogger. She was in Melbourne and walked under a bridge and found a bridge pylons where people obviously paid tribute to a person. There were gifts, flowers but also writings on the stone with the word “Mouse”. Please go and read her article. She researched later and found out that Mouse was a homeless man who got stabbed to death.

What a sad end, being homeless and then stabbed to death. The homicide alone makes this story already sad but she brings up another good point, it’s terrible that we have homeless people in our rich societies, and I agree, no matter how they came into the situation, it´s a shame that it is possible in rich countries. And we should do more to prevent it and we should do more to get them out if they are in a messy situation.

There are some reasons why I link her article. First, my blog got a lot of support over the time and I now want to start to give something back at times, in case I find something very important or interesting and that means that I also will share links to stories of other people, if I have an opinion on the subject that makes me write more than a small comment. Her article made me think and inspired me. I do also mean that it is very important to create awareness about this subject. Writing this, I do sit in a warm room in front of my computer and that is ideal but not a matter of course as not all people have this luck. I want to write about homelessness from a German perspective now.

Homeless on the Street

Here in Germany, people without jobs or homeless people can get unemployment benefits but the whole process is a lot of bureaucracy. Most people know how to fill out that form to get help in form of money but even then, the truth is that some people are overwhelmed with that. At times when I discuss about it, the common counter-argument is “You can´t be homeless in our country Germany”. But the fact is that there are homeless people on the streets and that means it’s clearly possible. These people need help, regardless of why they weren’t able to fill out any forms on their own to get help. There should clearly be some kind of “street workers” who patrol cities to offer homeless people help with that bureaucracy and other things. We have enough money to do that. So, what is the reason that I still can see homeless people on the streets when I walk through the city?

We have these “street workers” for young drug addicts because the common opinion is that you can still help them. We can do that with matured homeless people too, there is enough money and enough knowledge, it’s a shame that it doesn’t happen and I disagree when people say “You can’t help them anymore”. Admitted, talking about homeless people, it might be less of a problem here compared to other countries. But I go so far that even if I just see ten homeless people in the city, it still means that there is not done enough. In my small city I might find so many but if I visit Hamburg once in a while, it won’t take much time to see way more of them.

It’s always said that we have enough institutions to help those people and this is true, but how can a homeless know where to go, they don’t even have a phone or internet access and if they get refused in a hospital because they are poor but not ill, it shows how difficult it might be for them. I agree with many people, we can’t force people to get out of their mess, but I believe we can actively offer it. It’s not enough to say that there are facilities that will help people. Workers of the facilities should actively go out and offer advice how to get into a social welfare program. The problems are not inside the facilities, the people there get already help, there are problems outside on the streets as well.

To be honest, I would be amused if it wouldn´t be so sad… because there are a lot of studied people in the governments, institutions and facilities, but they all have something in common. They are highly uncreative and can’t think out of the box. We don’t need to force anybody to accept help, we just need more creative and active ways to offer it, and that directly on the streets. But that is not possible with people who refer to antiquated arguments such as “We can help people, they just need to want it” without going on the streets to tell it people in need directly. I wish that decision makers will some day learn to think out of the box.

I can help too and I did this many times. When I saw a homeless in front of a bakery, I sometimes bought not only buns for me, I bought some more and helped a person at least with one more meal. When a work-mate saw me doing that, he asked “Why do you do that? He could get money if he would ask for unemployment benefits!” and I felt really shocked when I heard his opinion because for some it isn’t that easy for whatever reason. Yes, I am not rich and I can’t give out tons of buns every day, but at times I can spend a few coins more if it’s left over, and then it won’t make me poor but it helps someone for a moment. It doesn’t matter to me why this person is still in this situation. But right, also my possibilities are limited and I can’t allot things every day but that brings me back to the point, governments and institutions can and they do, but they forget those who can’t ask for this kind of help on their own. The advice how to do that and how to accept the help, that should be actively offered where it is needed, on the streets or under the bridge as the folk saying goes.

Decision makers should really think about it. I believe that there could be great concepts if a lot of people discuss and plan it while sitting around a table. I can’t imagine that the society comes up with new innovations and great concepts every day while other areas stand still. My first idea would be to create small units of “street workers” who actively go visit places where the homeless people are, to offer advice how to accept help or how to get into help programs. That wouldn’t even need to happen on a basis that sounds like “You have the choice, accept our help or stay on the street”, I think it rather should start slowly, regular visits to meet homeless people and to slowly check out if some people might want to accept help and if there is potential. A slow integration process that is in order, first a home and welfare application, maybe helping to get them into drug-counseling service, medical assistance, maybe even psychotherapy if needed, integration into programs that might offer social activity like sport clubs or other things that create a daily life structure again. All that is already available and just needs to be offered slowly to the people in need. Actievely and not passively offered!

Yes, the process to get out there were help is needed, that would cost again money, but to be honest, we have enough of it. I wouldn’t believe if someone says we don’t. I just can speak of Germany and a lot of things are already good here but I don’t think that it means we shouldn’t improve further. It’s always good to develop strategies that go far beyond, I wish this would be common practice because that would be humanity.

There are many reasons why some people fall by the wayside, we shouldn’t ask why they don’t come to ask for help, we should ask them if they want to get back on track and help them succeed. That’s my opinion about it. That’s something that needs to be developed further. If I see ten or hundred homeless people on the streets, not even one would be acceptable in a rich country like ours. That we still have homeless people, that is indeed very terrible and a sign that our society is in some cases not really advanced but rather blind on both eyes.

4 Comments »

  1. Thank you for the link Dennis. I think you make a lot of good points in your post and they could be applied in any country. Maybe we can’t save everyone but if a lot of people did a little and if government agencies were a little more creative as you say a lot more could be done.

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