Homelessness in Germany

Homelessness in Germany

After our poll on Instagram, the majority suggested homelessness, which became our first topic of our Karma Blog. With this post we want to give you a short introduction to the topic of homelessness. We took a closer look at homelessness in Germany and tried to find out how it can happen in such a prosperous welfare state as Germany. 

What does homelessness mean?

First, we need to define homelessness and separate it from secondary homelessness. Everyone can imagine something by the term "homelessness", however, very few people know the difference between actual homelessness and secondary homelessness and so it often happens that these two terms are used as synonyms.

Homeless people are those who have neither a permanent home nor a shelter and spend the night in public spaces, outdoors, or in emergency shelters.

"Secondary" homeless people, on the other hand, are those who do not have a lease and are living with friends, family, or in government-funded shelters and is often a temporary state.


How many homeless people are there in Germany?


Now that we have defined the concept of homelessness, we can take a closer look at the question of how many homeless people there are in Germany. The answer is that no one really knows. The reason is that Germany neither keep official statistics on actual homeless people nor on secondary homeless people. Why is that? There are different opinions. Some think it would be too expensive and not possible to keep accurate statistics, and others think that the federal government deliberately does not publish official figures because they would most likely force action. This raises the question of whether this is not actually the purpose of such statistics. This approach just represents an attempt to drag out the problem and partially sweep it under the rug.


To get back to the real question, the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe, or BAG W for short, offers estimates on both primary and secondary homeless people. In 2018, approximately 678,000 people were "secondary" homeless, including 441,000 recognized homeless refugees without an address. Of these, approximately 41,000 people are actually homeless, if not more, as recognized homeless refugees. without an address have not been included in this estimate



What are the causes of homelessness?


Most assume that homeless people are often responsible for their own fate. However, one must not forget that there are also other factors such as family problems, difficult life situations as well as crises. Likewise, societal causes also play a role in contributing to the suffering.


Among the social reasons are, for example, the increasing poverty among the lower class in Germany, as well as the prevailing housing shortage in metropolitan areas, especially in large cities paired with high rent prices.


According to European Commission statistics, the most common cause of homelessness in Germany is losing a job without finding a new one. Other causes are drug addiction and a high level of debt, as well as the loss or separation of life partners. Of course, there are other causes, and they also look different for each person, but the above causes are among the most common.


What are the consequences and problems of homelessness? 

Homelessness mainly brings physical and psychological problems. It leads to the inability to meet basic human needs, such as food, warmth and safety. Lack of hygiene and malnutrition weaken the physical condition of people living on the streets, making them more susceptible to disease. Due to a lack of health insurance, they cannot afford medical care, which drastically decreases their life expectancy.

The constant struggle for survival severely impacts the psyche, and when coupled with possible drug, can literally make someone go crazy. In addition, the loneliness and social ostracism of the rest of society also have a negative impact on well-being. Another problem that homeless people face is the increased risk of violent and sexual assaults, as they do not get the necessary protection on the streets and are therefore completely exposed to the dangers.

 Therefore, it is important that we perceive homeless people not only as such, but as human beings, each of whom carries a story with them.


It is not only the federal government's duty to do something, but each and every one of us can make a small contribution to help the people living on the street. Anyone who has ever helped a homeless person, whether it be through a small monetary donation or giving food, knows how much most of them appreciate it and are genuinely happy. Let's face it, at the end of the day it doesn't make a difference to us if we come home with 2 Euros or a banana more or less, however it makes a big difference to the person who actually needs it. It could even be the only meal of the day for the person...


We hope we could give you a small overview about homelessness in Germany. But since there is more to write about this topic and we want to continue to look into the problem in more detail, more articles will follow in the coming weeks.